Magnetic Versus Physical Pole Shift

In a physical pole inversion of the planet, the planet actually rolls over on its axis. A physical pole shift would likely be catastrophic for the global ecology. One probable consequence would be major crustal displacement, as the flip causes tectonic plates and continents to collide with each other.

Patrick Geryl, author of How to Survive 2012, strongly believes a complete magnetic pole reversal will inevitably trigger a disastrous physical pole shift, simply because Earth's core is iron and therefore will respond to the new polarity. This is an overly simplistic view that is not supported by scientific or historical evidence.

There is no evidence that this has happened during previous magnetic pole shifts and nothing to indicate why it should happen this time. An event like this has happened once before in the geological record, but not for many hundreds of millions of years. His belief that a pole shift is certain in 2012 has led Geryl to conclude that the only reasonably safe places to be in such an event will be in special unsinkable ships or deep underground, high up in a major mountain range. Even then, survival is not guaranteed.

Geryl believes Earth reversing its direction of spin will initiate the pole shift. This idea comes from Greg Braden's book Awakening to Zero Point, in which he examines a scenario where Earth's rotation actually slows, momentarily stops, and then reverses in the opposite direction. This theory would require an unknown force to negate Earth's spin, slow it to a halt without tearing the crust of Earth from its mantle, and then reverse the force so that Earth spins in the opposite direction. The forces responsible for the miniscule slowing Earth is already undergoing would in no way be adequate to do this, nor would any other known force in our solar system.

The Schumann Frequency

Another idea put forward in Braden's Awakening to Zero Point is that the fundamental frequency of the earth is shifting upward. This change in planetary vibration is said to be responsible for creating the current Earth changes. The frequency Braden is talking about is called the primary Schumann resonance. This is a function of the amount of time it takes for electromagnetic waves to travel around the planet. It is calculated by dividing the speed of light by the circumference of Earth.

The kind of massive tsunami in the movie 2012 would probably only be induced by a physical pole shift rather than a magnetic one. An event of this magnitude could possibly trigger a wave of water a mile and a half high that could circumnavigate the globe. Very little of human civilization would be likely to survive.

The primary Schumann frequency is 7.8Hz, and varies slightly with changes in the ionosphere. Neither the speed of light nor the circumference of Earth is changing, so the primary Schumann resonance is not going to fundamentally alter either.

Despite the scientific inaccuracy, Braden should be given credit for articulating ideas whose popularity seem to come from their resonance with many peoples' intuitive perceptions of the changes happening on our planet. The vibrations of our planet are changing, but in a much more complex way unrelated to the Schumann frequency.

The notion of Earth reversing its direction of spin mirrors in some ways the much more subtle change of polarity represented by the winter solstice meridian crossing the galactic equator. The science may be wrong, but the notions of a pole shift and an ascending planet tap into the popular psyche in a powerful way. Better science can reveal much more and help us get a clearer view, but the value of new ideas and speculations like these is that they get people to ask important questions.

The mechanism of a magnetic pole reversal is not well understood and the consequences are difficult to quantify, but they are likely to be some significant ones, including major climatic disruption.

• Some scientists think that the poles can spontaneously migrate from one orientation to the other over the course of a few decades to a few thousand years.

• Others think the geodynamo at the earth's core first turns itself off spontaneously and then restarts itself with the magnetic north pole pointing either north or south.

• External events such as an asteroid impact are not thought to cause magnetic field reversals. The ages of impact craters do not line up with the timing of previous reversals.

• The mainstream scientific opinion is that the current wandering of the magnetic poles does not foretell a magnetic pole shift and no such event is likely in our immediate future.

The historical record shows, however, that magnetic pole shifts are quite frequent events over a geological time scale and it is inevitable that one will happen sooner or later. This could be as long as a few thousand years away but it will certainly happen at some point, as it has happened many times before. In the last 25 million years, the poles have inverted once every 250,000 years, on average. In the last million years, the inversions have happened closer to once every 125,000 years. Estimates for the amount of time a magnetic field reversal would take to complete vary widely, from 5,000 years to a couple of months.

Magnetic Field Drops to Zero

As the magnetic field inverts, the strength of the magnetosphere would likely drop to zero. This would mean our main planetary defense against incoming cosmic radiation would be removed. There is a theory that these periods of magnetic cancellation are responsible for jumps in evolution because the massive increase in cosmic radiation triggers genetic mutations.

An extended period of magnetic cancellation and increased exposure to the solar wind could also result in major disruption to life and possible species extinction. In some ways, a rapid pole reversal may be more desirable than a slower one. At least a functioning magnetosphere provides protection from the solar wind.

The Chandler Wobble

A good indicator of the possibility of changes in the physical poles of Earth is an effect called the Chandler wobble. This is the change in the spin of the earth on its axis. It's named after Seth Carlo Chandler, an American astronomer who first discovered the wobble back in 1891 after thirty years of observations. The effect causes Earth's physical poles to move in an irregular circle. This wobble has a seven-year cycle. The wobble:

• Produces a very small ocean tide, the pole tide, which is the only tide not caused by bodies outside Earth

• Has varied in amplitude since its discovery, reaching its largest size in 1910 and fluctuating noticeably from one decade to another

• Is caused by fluctuating pressure on the bottom of the ocean, caused by temperature and salinity changes and wind-driven changes in the circulation of the oceans, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Independent researcher Micheal Mandeville of has been exhaustively analyzing trends in seismic and volcanic activity from around the world. Using a very detailed statistical analysis, Mandeville claims to have found correlations between the position and motion of the pole with increases and decreases in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These correlations are sufficiently consistent, he claims, to conclude that the Chandler wobble stresses Earth's crust, which in turn creates a cycle of earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The Anomaly of the Wobble

For a six-week period beginning in November 2005, there was no discernable wobble motion in Earth. The track of the spin axis began to slow down, and by about January 8, 2006, it ceased nearly all relative motion. Mandeville suggests that the anomaly in Earth's wobble could be a response to the massive earthquake and the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004.

After an initial earthquake that measured 9.3 on the Richter scale, a cluster of several thousand earthquakes followed, including dozens of earthquakes greater than 6.0 in magnitude and at least three above 7.0. This caused substantial uplifting, down-warping, and lateral movement in the two tectonic plates that could have ruptured their mutual junction.

The scale of this tectonic activity is by far the greatest on the planet in the last twenty years. Mandeville theorizes this could have caused warping that pushed the Indian continental plate deep enough down into the liquid mantle of Earth to cause a measurable drag on the spin of the equator.

Another contributing factor to this anomaly may be the shifting location of the magnetic north pole, which is currently migrating toward the north spin axis of the wobble. During the past eighty years, for unknown reasons, this rate of drift has been accelerating. The change of the wobble and the drifting of the pole may be seen as symptoms of the early stages of a pole reversal. However, neither of these events necessarily means a complete inversion is imminent or likely.

Alternate Theories

An extended wandering of the poles, also known as a geomagnetic excursion, remains more likely than a complete reversal. The most compelling evidence that a complete pole reversal may be about to occur comes from Dmitriev's theory that incoming interstellar plasma is responsible for current planetophysical changes. The poles of both Uranus and Neptune have had polar shifts of at least fifty degrees within the last decade. If this is due to the influx of interstellar plasma into our solar system as Dmitriev believes, our own planet is being subjected to these same conditions.

It is not necessary to insist that a pole shift must be about to occur in 2012 to conclude that Earth is entering a period of major geophysical change. There are many contributing factors to this, including increasing cosmic radiation, climate change, and the technological impact of humanity.

On the other hand, the combination of the weakening of Earth's magnetosphere, the large increase in interstellar plasma, and the solar maximum due in 2012 may produce large-scale effects for life on Earth. Given these circumstances, the possibility of a sudden magnetic pole shift cannot be completely discounted, but it is far from inevitable. However, most scientists think a magnetic pole shift is highly unlikely in the near future and that it would be gradual, rather than sudden.

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