Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
The headline says,
Scientists warn Earth’s magnetic North Pole has begun moving ‘erratically’ at speeds so fast they are having to issue an emergency update to maps used by electronic navigation systems
It is another story that implies a normal event is abnormal. The magnetic pole is always moving, and this rapid movement is not new; recent but not new. Look at the diagram (Figure 1) included in the report. Notice that it moved more between 2000 and 2010 than is estimated for 2010 to 2020. (Some joke here about fleeing increasingly socialist Canada for increasingly capitalist Siberia.)
I gathered practical knowledge about the North Magnetic Pole and the Earth’s magnetism when flying Search and Rescue in the Canadian Arctic. There was a line on our maps with a caption that read, “Compasses unreliable beyond this line.” The reason is that a compass needle, balances on a point, and moves around to align itself with the Earth’s magnetic lines of force. As you approach the pole the lines ‘dip’ until they go straight down, known as the dip angle. Accurate readings become increasingly difficult and therefore “unreliable.”
My next involvement came from teaching. The concept of continental drift was new and controversial. People could not imagine continents moving around, and there was no empirical evidence. That changed in 1963 when Vine and Matthews published their work on magnetic stripes on each side of a ridge where the plates were separating (Figure 2).
This led to a plethora of papers and research, which tested the hypothesis using the proper scientific method. It is now widely accepted. One piece of research used the alignment of the lines of magnetic force to determine the position of the pole. Some minerals, such as magnetite, are more sensitive to magnetism than others. As the magma reaches the surface along the ridge and becomes lava, it begins to cool. Before cooling the minerals align themselves with the magnetic field. This is locked in at a critical temperature in the cooling process known as the Curie Point.
The plots of the direction of changing magnetic lines appeared to show the pole moving. The phenomenon was called polar wandering because people could not imagine that the pole stayed approximately in the same place and the continents moved around it. From the knowledge that the continent moved, these lines allowed reconstruction of plate movement.
Do not confuse this with the current magnetic pole movement. People have known for hundreds of years that the Earth has a magnetic field with a north and south pole. The Chinese used the magnetic properties of rocks like Lodestone, which is actually magnetite, to determine the direction and thus become the first compasses.
Another phase of my involvement with magnetism came through climate research. I used the Hudson’s Bay Company journals to reconstruct an extensive historical climate record. I also worked with Sam Bawlf providing climate reconstructions for his book The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake. All of this involved and extended my Air Force learning and interest in navigation.
The Elizabethans knew an amazing amount about magnetism. One of the greatest but least known scientific treatises is William Gilbert’s 1600 AD masterpiece De Magnete. The ongoing struggle would not exist if the North Magnetic Pole and the True Pole were coincident, but they are not. If you are determining direction using a compass and using maps drawn geometrically to the True Pole, you must constantly correct for the variation between the two. That is difficult enough, but the fact the Magnetic Pole is constantly moving complicates it. This is the challenge of today’s reported movement and adjustment of navigation devices.
Besides all of this movement of the Poles, there is another change that appears imminent. People are always amazed to learn that periodically the Earth’s magnetic field reverses. The current situation is called Normal, and opposite polarity is called Reverse. These changes were recorded in the lava as it cooled and identified two situations, a brief reversal called an Event and a prolonged period called an Epoch in which the Normal or Reverse condition dominates (Figure 3).
The immediate question is what creates the Earth’s magnetic field? Before the discovery of reversals, people thought the Earth was a giant rotating dynamo. The problem with that is a reversal would require the rotation stop and start up in the opposite direction. There is no evidence for that proposition. The more likely explanation is that each of the Earths inner shells, from the Solid Inner Core to the Liquid Outer Core, through the Mantle, rotate at different speeds and each induces a magnetic field (Figure 4). The net interaction of the fields causes the pattern of reversals.
It is not known how long it takes because of crude recording of the reversal, and different measurements give different results. The National Science Foundation says it takes 7000 years.
I hope this is true because in an appearance before the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Ozone I used the threat of a reversal as an example of how science works. Initially, I turned down the invitation because I was not an expert on ozone. Besides from previous experiences I knew they did not want to learn, they only wanted information to confirm their prejudices. They told me it was a legal order, so I went. I broke the rules because it was clear they knew nothing about the scientific method. They didn’t even know that a presenter in my group was using computer model generated ozone data for Toronto when there was no real data. I told them that the so-called hole-in-the-ozone was itself an untested hypothesis.
I explained that any scientist could take a few facts and generate a hypothesis. The scientific method requires other scientists, acting as skeptics, to challenge the hypothesis, normally by disproving one or more of the basic assumptions. I pointed out that I could generate dozens of life-threatening hypotheses. For example, the Earth is slowing down in its speed of rotation, the Earth’s magnetic field has weakened for the last 1500 years (Figure 5), and this appears to indicate a magnetic reversal is imminent, and some scientists claim that during previous reversals extensive extinction of species occurs. I wanted to know what my government is planning to do about it. I pointed out that their challenge is an inability to deal with all these threats, complicated by an inability to understand the science and prioritize them appropriately. Exploitation of environmentalism and emotionalism for a political agenda complicates it further.
The recent more rapid movement of the Magnetic Pole coupled with the weakening of the Field suggests significant changes that might presage a reversal. Regardless, it also raises the question about the impact of the magnetic field on weather and climate. My prejudice is based on the use of the aurora by indigenous people to predict weather patterns across northern an Arctic Canada. We know that the aurora activity correlates with sunspot numbers. Further evidence of a relationship was the appearance of cracks in the magnetic field with no sunspots, although, again it is only a correlation.
Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) was sent to Scotland by the Royal Society to investigate reports of the reappearance of the aurora. He knew about these phenomena, but in an interesting twist of history, his life spanned most of the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age. In his report to the Society, he gave thanks for living long enough to witness their return.
Of course, correlation is not cause and effect, but we now know the aurora are the result of interaction between the solar wind and gases, especially oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. We now know the aurora are a direct result of electrons interacting with the magnetic field.
I hope we will see some enterprising open-minded research done on these manifestations of change to determine the mechanisms. I previously hypothesized that changes in upper-level circulation, especially the subtropical easterlies and the mid-latitude westerlies are due to changes in pressure on the magnetic field and all underlying atmospheric layers by the solar wind. We know the solar wind compresses the magnetic field on the up-Sun side (Figure 6), so it is logical that variation in the solar wind causes variation in the amount of compression creating a bellows-like effect.
Exploitation of the normal as abnormal by the mainstream media triggered this article. It is speculative and designed to stimulate a wider debate that does not occur because of specialization. The Magnetic Pole event allows me to identify the facts and correlations known to disparate sections of science. Because of the tunnel-vision of the IPCC, it is time to take a large portion of the money the Democrats will direct to ‘proving’ IPCC claims, and identify other major mechanisms that far exceed any possible influence of human CO2 on climate change.