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Forget those worries over such items as low testosterone levels in middle-aged men, fluctuating gasoline prices or the propensity of football officials making bad calls involving your team.
We have something more serious to address.
Thanks to information as provided by Sarah Kaplan in a Washington Post article of Feb. 6 and Guy Adams in an earlier article in the British newspaper The Independent, it seems the earth’s magnetic pole has shifted, and magnetic north is no longer where it used to be.
There’s no need to panic yet, though, as we all knew this was bound to eventually occur. We just didn’t realize it would be this soon.
According to Kaplan, scientists recently released an emergency update to the world magnetic model, the vehicle that cellphones, GPS devices and military navigators use to orient themselves, warning that the magnetic North Pole is shifting “faster than at any time in human history, threatening everything from the safety of modern transport systems to the traditional navigation routes of migrating animals.”
To further explain, geologists believe that magnetic North Pole (which is different from the true North Pole, the axis on which the Earth spins) moves around due to changes in the planet’s molten core, which contains liquid iron.
To avoid panic and confusion, it’s critical to know this shift does not affect the true North Pole, the home of Santa Claus and the elves, so all work currently taking place there should be unaffected.
Whew, that was a close one!
“The pole’s drift suggests something strange — and potentially powerful — is now taking place from deep within the earth.”
And only by tracking it, said University of Leeds (England) geophysicist Phil Livermore, and he certainly should know, can scientists hope to understand exactly what is going on.
Livermore explained the earth’s “magnetic field is generated nearly 2,000 miles beneath our feet, in the swirling, spinning ball of molten metal that forms Earth’s core.” (How’s that for complete gobbledygook terminology?) Livermore’s words, not mine.
As we all know, magnetic north was first discovered in 1831 and found to be at a location in the Canadian arctic.
By the time the U.S. Army finally got around to marking the exact site more than 100 years later in the 1940s, it had shifted some 250 miles to the northwest.
Since 1990, it has moved even farther, some 600 miles, and is now smack dab in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, 4 degrees south of geographic north and since 2015 has been moving toward Siberia at a rate of more than 30 miles per year.
Some have speculated the shift means our Earth is overdue for another magnetic field reversal, causing compasses to invert and point south rather than north, an event experts say has not occurred for 780,000 years and could be a sign of a cataclysm to come.
It’s unclear at this time who or what is to blame for the polar shift.
Just as one might expect, no sooner had the shift been detected than Democrats began pointing fingers and blaming Republicans for causing it.
Just as predictable, Republicans fired right back with counterclaims that the Democrats had known about it all along and failed to warn the public.
One group of concerned Wake County residents has reportedly hired an attorney to explore filing a class action suit against the party responsible, another group gathered on the courthouse steps and demanded “answers” while one group of legislators for some unexplained reason has blamed the shift on former President Calvin Coolidge.
Adams said the phenomenon is also causing problems in the field of aviation.
“Tampa International Airport in Florida has just spent a month renaming its three runways, which in common with those at most U.S. airports, are identified using numbers that correspond to the direction, in degrees, that they face on a compass,” The Independent’s story states.
Furthermore, birds that fly south for the winter, along with migratory sea creatures, could become confused while long-living animals, such as whales and turtles, may from now on be required to recalibrate their navigational instincts.
So, what does all this mean to the average person, and what should we do to prepare for it?
If everyone gets as excited and disturbed about this as they did for the solar eclipse a couple of years ago, it could turn into a real mess.
My suggestion is to at least hit the bread and milk aisles at the grocery store, and the sooner, the better.
So, now you know.
If your compass or GPS starts acting up in a few months, don’t come running to me saying I didn’t warn you.
Keith Barnes is a reporter and columnist for the Johnstonian News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.