Do you think the shift in the magnetic poles will cause great weather changes?
– Trudy Banks
Before answering your question, I think it’s important to clarify for other readers what you mean by “the shift in the magnetic poles.”
The Earth acts one big magnet with two poles, just like any other magnet you might find. As most us learned in school, this is why compass needles, which are magnetized, point north. Scientists first theorized that the Earth had two magnetic poles during the 17th Century, and the North Magnetic Pole was finally discovered on June 1, 1831, by explorer James Clark Ross. At that time, the pole was located at Cape Adelaide on the Boothia Peninsula, currently part of Canada’s Nunavut territory.
Since then, the site of the North Magnetic Pole has moved more than 800 miles to the northeast. In 2001, a Geological Survey of Canada found the pole near Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. Since about 2007, the pole has been moving even faster. It has been speeding northward at a rate of about 40 miles per year. If it continues at its current rate and direction, it will reach Siberia, on the other side of the globe, in about 50 years’ time. It’s possible, however, that its pace will slow, or even reverse, before then.
Polar drift happens because the Earth’s outer core is made from molten iron, which continually moves under the planet’s outer crust.
So, what does all of this have to do with the weather? Actually, nothing. Despite many rumors to the contrary spread on conspiracy theory sites — including those that predict doomsday scenarios if our magnetic poles were to reverse, as they have in the prehistoric past — the Earth’s magnetic poles induce little to no effect on the movement of large-scale weather systems across the globe.
Have a question you’d like to ask? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.