Is A Magnetic Pole Shift About to Wreck Planet Earth?

You may have noticed the deluge of articles recently claiming that a magnetic pole shift is imminent and we’re all about to get blasted back to the stone age. Are the reports true? Should you prepare for the worst, restock your canned peas?

Here’s what they claim will happen: During the shift, the magnetic field surrounding our planet will weaken, perhaps down to only one-tenth its current power. This will allow harmful solar and cosmic rays to ravage Earth, wreaking untold devastation around the world. Our satellites will fail, our electrical grids will collapse. We’re talking decades-long blackouts, scorched landscapes, and really bad sunburns.

The shift will be so cataclysmic that it will render parts of Earth downright uninhabitable. Species will go extinct. We are completely and utterly doomed. The only question that remains now is: when?

How true is any of this?

Well, the fun news is that a pole shift will eventually happen. In fact, NASA has provided these nifty images to illustrate just what a pole reversal looks like.

This is your Earth between pole shifts:

Image: NASA

And this is your Earth during a pole shift:

Image: NASA

Any Questions?

That looks pretty gnarly, no doubt. But how worried should we be?

The last pole shift happened about 780,000 years ago, with another almost happening 40,000 years ago. In fact, pole shifts have occurred regularly throughout the history of Earth, and take upwards of thousands of years to complete.

According to NASA, “reversals have happened at least hundreds of times over the past three billion years.” The problem seems to be how our modern technological civilization will cope with the next one.

Scientists estimate that pole shifts occur roughly every 200,000 to 300,000 years, so we actually are due for another. And there are, indeed, signs that one is near – a draining of molten iron and nickel from the Earth’s core, for example, according to Futurism.

We also have a few signs of a shift in progress. According to NASA, the North Pole is now moving northward at about 40 miles per year, which is faster than it had been moving last century. It’s also not uncommon for airports to update their runways to reflect magnetic field changes. Whether or not these slight shifts will soon turn into a full-blown reversal is unknown.

All of that said, is a pole shift actually dangerous?

Most of the current concerns arise from an article written by Alanna Mitchell in Undark Magazine, which outlines the possible damage that could be done to our satellites and electrical grids. This was then picked up by a nearly infinite number of online tabloids.

But any potential doomsday scenarios are not without their critics.

Happens All the Time

In the heat of the ill-fated 2012 Mayan apocalypse, for example, NASA posted a response to those worried about a destructive magnetic pole shift, titled “2012: Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All the (Geologic) Time.”

In it, they explained the basics of pole reversals, as well as how today’s scientists understand the effects of past reversals:

“The Earth’s magnetic field determines the magnetization of lava as it is laid down on the ocean floor on either side of the Mid-Atlantic Rift where the North American and European continental plates are spreading apart. As the lava solidifies, it creates a record of the orientation of past magnetic fields much like a tape recorder records sound.”

Examining sediment cores deep in the ocean allows them to view those records, specifically the effects of the last reversal 780,000 years ago.

What they’ve found is that “the fossil record shows no drastic changes in plant or animal life” during that time. They’ve also found no evidence that the magnetic field has ever disappeared completely. Even then, in the event of a weakened field, Earth’s atmosphere continues to help shield the planet from harmful radiation.

NASA ended their 2012 rebuttal with a very straightforward statement: “There is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the 2012 doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously.”

Are We Doomed?

Can the same be said for a 2018 pole reversal doomsday scenario? Probably. In response to that Undark article, Robert Walker over at Science 2.0 posted his own rebuttal, which seems to cover many of NASA’s points in greater detail. He calls it all “nonsense, utter codswallop.” It’s an interesting read.

While GPS would most certainly be affected, and we’d likely have some problems with electric grids, these are obstacles we could ultimately handle, he writes, in the same way we handle other natural disasters, like hurricanes.

As for claims that parts of Earth will be rendered uninhabitable, he’s not having any of that. At most, he says, you may “need to wear more sunblock cream on sunny days.” Some satellites would need to be “hardened,” and astronauts aboard space stations would require greater protection. Other than that, civilization as a whole would not experience an existential threat.

So, perhaps a magnetic pole shift is not quite the end of the world as we know it. On the other hand, things are much different now than they were 780,000 years ago. You never really know what’s going to happen until it happens. I guess some day we (or, more likely, our descendants) will find out.

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  1. yeah dont worry people its only a magnetic change……really… this the truth…..i think not, anyone who understands magnetism will understand that when you reverse the poles you reverse the spin, so when earth slows down and starts to rotate in the opposite direction the only thing you will have to worry about is a sun tan…..ho ho ho……hope you all can swim when the oceans start pushing up the coast lines…higher and higher……its hard to estimate how high you will have to be to avoid this…..there are more troubles ahead like the polar re alignment which involves a crustal displacement, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and the melting of the greenland glaziers …….but dont worry just make sure you have your sun tan lotion all will be fine……
    Earths new poles will be in the bay of bengal and uruguay it is a 12000 year cycle, how do i know this, easy because thats where they were the last time they flipped, we are within 5-10 years of this event taking place, just look up the magnetic reversal chart on google, click on images you will see the data to prove what i am saying. Earth is spinning because of our poles, we are magnetically aligned in our galaxy, if you understand that then its easy to understand the changes taking place now are potentially devastating to life on this planet…….my fingers are crossed. Anyone interested should search for a you tube channel suspicious observers
    when you find the channel look for his earths catastrophic cycle play list and you will get a better understanding of what will happen……..

    1. Thank you. I was going to comment the very same thing. People will never know the truth unless they open their minds, do their own research and begin to think for themselves. This event may not mean
      an extinction but it certainly will destroy coastal states well inland ….

    2. Pretty good info, I’d add thr electrical component too, as you can’t have one (magnetism) without the other. There’s also the wondering poles on our neighbor planets and the two stars that went nova which are between us and galactic center. We’re already inside that same current sheet so when enough dust gathers our Sun also Novas, which is why the poles shift in the first place. Static dust has been creeping into our solar system for 150 years or so, which is when our poles started to wonder. See the connections? Very precise clock cycle, just like the ancients warned.