Scientists Bring Global Pole Shift Fears Into Focus
Scientists have published a paper revealing the catastrophic effects of a “Laschamps excursion” around 42,000-years-ago. A Lascah-what? A “Laschamps excursion” is better known in today’s vocabulary as a pole shift event. The “Cataclysmic Pole-Shift Hypothesis” is largely regarded as a fringe theory about a shifting of the relative positions of the Earth’s geographic poles. The results of pole shifts are often presented in popular culture as great tectonic events that spark global calamities such as floods and landslides.
However, now, a new scientific study suggests that the last time the Earth’s magnetic field “flipped around, then flopped back again,” the effects on Earth’s surface were just like how literature and the movies portray pole shifts.
An ancient kauri (Agathis australis) tree log from Ngawha, New Zealand, which was used as primary evidence in the recent scientific pole shift study. (Nelson Parker)
Poles Shifts And The Earth’s Flipping Magnetic Field
The new study was published in the journal Science and reviewed in Science News. Opening with an analysis of fossilized Kauri (Agathis australis) trees from New Zealand that died over 41,000 years ago the researchers present new data about the Earth’s atmosphere at that time. The authors say our planet suffered a series of “unfortunate events” which overlapped with a “Laschamps excursion” event when the Earth's magnetic field flipped, resulting in a pole shift.
In 2006, the disaster movie Absolute Zero featured a “polar shift” that brought on an Ice Age in Florida. The 2009 Polar Storm film also explored the effects of rapid pole reversal. However, the recently published Science study is the first academic paper to consider such a wide swath of possible post-pole shift consequences.
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The chemicals preserved within the fossilized Kauri tree rings served the researchers as an ancient library of atmospheric records detailing the Earth's magnetic field’s effect on the ozone layer. Furthermore, the researchers were able to derive data about solar activity and space weather in different periods of time that they say all “impacted ancient people and wildlife on Earth.”
How incredible that an ancient kauri tree log from New Zealand can tell us so much about what the Earth was like 42,000 years ago during a pole shift. (Nelson Parker)
The Last Pole Shift? 800 Years Of Wonky Magnetics!
Last January, the New Zealand Herald announced the discovery of the 41,000 years old Kauri trees and the new study reveals that they had lived during the entirety of the last Laschamps excursion event. This pole shift event is thought to have lasted about 800 years after which the Earth’s magnetic field corrected itself “by flipping backwards.”
The study revealed that between 41,600 to 42,300 years ago the Earth’s magnetic field was only “six percent of its full strength.” The mean date for the pole shift event was calculated at about 42,000 years ago. This fact inspired the researchers to call the last pole shift “The Adams Event,” after author Douglas Adams who wrote Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which famously states “the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.”
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Taking all this right back to Earth one wonders how did the so-called Adam’s Event affect our ancient forebears who were busy hunting, trapping, fishing and developing survival technologies? Co-author of the new study, University of New South Wales geoscientist Chris S.M. Turney, told the New York Times that “it must have seemed like the end of days.”
Explaining this dramatic statement Turney said it would have been bad enough if just the Earth’s magnetic field was weakened, but ice core data revealed the sun was also in a period of lowered activity. With fewer solar flares, the sun’s protective shield would have been bombarded with cosmic rays meaning “the heliosphere" (the vast, bubble-like region of space that surrounds and is created by the sun,) was also weakened.”
According to the researchers comments on the Conversation, with both its magnetic field and heliosphere diminished Earth was “doubly at risk from cosmic radiation.” With a thinner ozone layer, the aurora borealis would have appeared closer to the equator.
Furthermore, the paper says the increased ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface would have translated into a human experience of “raging electrical storms, and Arctic air reaching across continents.”
Measuring Up The Prospects Of A Pole Shift Today
Environmental effects linked to the last pole shift include “the extinction of large animals in Australia, and the demise of Neanderthals, and humans using red ocher pigments in their cave arts and as sun screens.”
Scientists generally agree that any such changes in the magnetic field today, including reversals, “probably don’t pose a threat to life.” The main modern threat is our electronic infrastructure on Earth and in the sky. This is because space weather events such as geomagnetic storms, arising from the interaction between the magnetic field and incoming solar radiation, could seriously disrupt satellite communications, GPS and power grids.
And while our lives might not be washed away in floods this is a troubling prospect when we consider the economic cost of a collapse of the US power grid due to a space weather event has been estimated at “around one trillion dollars.” And the pole shift threat is deemed serious enough in the UK that it is regarded as a high priority on the national risk register.
Top image: An abstract depiction of Earth with its magnetic rings, which are affected by pole shifts. Source: Petrovich12 / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie