There are many scenarios which could describe an apocalypse on Earth. Aside from meeting the same fate as dinosaurs or a Zombie breakout all over the world, some believe that the shift between the Earth’s north and south magnetic poles could put an end to civilization and the world as we know it. Scientists have already found that Earth’s magnetic north pole is slowly moving, resulting in inaccurate estimates when it comes to navigation.
The shift is so serious that the National Center for Environmental Information has urged to release a new World Magnetic Model earlier than usual. Previously, the WMM was updated every five years. The last time it was updated was in 2015, and the next update would have come at the end of this year. However, the recent more rapid movement of the magnetic pole in the Arctic caused scientists to decide to release a new model now, almost a year early.
Even though the whole event of a magnetic field reversal sounds scary and apocalyptic, there is little chance it would put an end to civilization. Instead of the catastrophic volcanic outbursts and end to the world, we should be more worried about air travel, smartphones and other devices which rely on the WMM. As for life, it would continue like it has, given that recent fossil records show that life continued to exist despite previous magnetic pole reversals.
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Also, according to NASA, the magnetic field can vary from being weaker or stronger over time. A weaker field could lead to geomagnetic pole reversal.
The World Magnetic Model is widely used for navigational purposes by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration. It is a great model for surveying, mapping, as well as satellite tracking and managing air traffic. The Magnetic north pole moves about 34 miles every year, which is why the model has been updated every five years until now.
“The declination has changed just over 2.5 degrees over the past 22 years since Denver opened,” Heath Montgomery, former Denver International Airport spokesperson, said after the last update.
That said, magnetic declination, the angle between Earth’s magnetic north pole and true north, has been continually changing over time. Earth’s magnetic north pole was discovered in northern Canada in 1831. Since then, the pole has continued to move across the Canadian Arctic toward Russia.
“The slowly moving plates act as a kind of tape recorder leaving information about the strength and direction of past magnetic fields. By sampling these rocks and using radiometric dating techniques, it has been possible to reconstruct the history of the Earth’s magnetic field for roughly the last 160 million years,” wrote the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a blog post. “If one ‘plays the tape backwards,’ the record shows Earth’s magnetic field strengthening, weakening, and often changing polarity.”