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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Ask Caleb: Does Polar Drift Affect Weather?

Ask Caleb: Does Polar Drift Affect Weather?

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 weather@farmersalmanac.com.

7 comments

1 Ben { 02.12.13 at 9:40 am }

I hope you read comments on older posts. Respectfully, you forget a HUGE factor in this. The polar wander is accompanied by a simultaneous fading of the magnetosphere by about 10% since the 1600s [See Kyoto World Center for Geomagnetism] and that factors in on many energy levels. The magnetosphere is our interface with all forms of cosmic energy and in the opinion of many, as great a factor as the ozone or more. The recent noted over-collapse of the atmosphere [NASA] and explosion of noctilucent cloud sightings across the globe indicates that our system is indeed shifting. See a video called ‘Energy from Space’ and you will know this is happening throughout the entire solar system.

2 Jaime McLeod { 01.27.11 at 11:50 am }

Jan,
No. Neither conventional motors nor water movement are affected by the Earth’s magnetic force. There are some motors that run on magnetic force, but that’s a very specialized case, and I don’t know enough about them to comment. I am certain about the toilets and mechanical motors, though.

3 Jan { 01.27.11 at 11:34 am }

After a magnetic pole shift, will our motors want to “run backwards” and thus not work anymore? Will the water in our toilets swirl in the opposite direction when we flush them?

4 david { 01.26.11 at 4:21 pm }

And What caused the “Ice Age”?

5 Jaime McLeod { 01.26.11 at 1:02 pm }

Hi Tim,
Good question. You’re thinking of the geographic North Pole. That is the farthest point North one can reach. As you note, it never moves. This article is about the magnetic North Pole, which is a completely different thing. The magnetic North Pole is more difficult to explain, but you could think of it as the “top end” of the Earth’s magnetic field. It’s where the “north” ends of dipolar magnets (such as compass needles) point. It is relatively near the geographic North Pole, but isn’t the same place.

6 Jack { 01.26.11 at 12:05 pm }

The gravitational pull of the sun and moon govern earth’s ocean tides. Our oceans are the primary creators of earth’s weather.

7 Tim A. Blankenship { 01.26.11 at 10:37 am }

I have a question. Isn’t the North pole the farthest Northern point one can reach?
If that is so then how can the North pole be moving North as you say above?
” It has been speeding northward at a rate of about 40 miles per year.”
Just curious

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