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Last magnetic flip of Earths poles happened fast: less than 100 years?

Using layers of ash in lake sediments in Italy, researchers claim to have dated the last flip of the Earths magnetic field more accurately than ever before — at 786,000 years ago. The spot has unusually high resolution during the right 10,000 year era, which gives better detail on the process of this major event. Curiously the flip started with two periods of magnetic instability that spanned first 6,000 years then, later, 2,000 years. At the end of the second period, suddenly the magnetic flip occurred. It was so fast that researchers guess it was in less than 100 years.

Science Daily

Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

Imagine the world waking up one morning to discover that all compasses pointed south instead of north.

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped — though not overnight — many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

Now, a new study by a team of scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that the last magnetic reversal 786,000 years ago actually happened very quickly, in less than 100 years — roughly a human lifetime.

“It’s amazing how rapidly we see that reversal,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Courtney Sprain. “The paleomagnetic data are very well done. This is one of the best records we have so far of what happens during a reversal and how quickly these reversals can happen.”

Sprain and Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and a UC Berkeley professor-in- residence of earth and planetary science, are coauthors of the study, which will be published in the November issue of Geophysical Journal International and is now available online.

Flip could affect electrical grid, cancer rates

The discovery comes as new evidence indicates that the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing 10 times faster than normal, leading some geophysicists to predict a reversal within a few thousand years.

Though a magnetic reversal is a major planet-wide event driven by convection in Earth’s iron core, there are no documented catastrophes associated with past reversals, despite much searching in the geologic and biologic record. Today, however, such a reversal could potentially wreak havoc with our electrical grid, generating currents that might take it down.

And since Earth’s magnetic field protects life from energetic particles from the sun and cosmic rays, both of which can cause genetic mutations, a weakening or temporary loss of the field before a permanent reversal could increase cancer rates. The danger to life would be even greater if flips were preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior.

“We should be thinking more about what the biologic effects would be,” Renne said.

Dating ash deposits from windward volcanoes

The new finding is based on measurements of the magnetic field alignment in layers of ancient lake sediments now exposed in the Sulmona basin of the Apennine Mountains east of Rome, Italy. The lake sediments are interbedded with ash layers erupted from the Roman volcanic province, a large area of volcanoes upwind of the former lake that includes periodically erupting volcanoes near Sabatini, Vesuvius and the Alban Hills.

Italian researchers led by Leonardo Sagnotti of Rome’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology measured the magnetic field directions frozen into the sediments as they accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake.

Sprain and Renne used argon-argon dating, a method widely used to determine the ages of rocks, whether they’re thousands or billions of years old, to determine the age of ash layers above and below the sediment layer recording the last reversal. These dates were confirmed by their colleague and former UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Sebastien Nomade of the Laboratory of Environmental and Climate Sciences in Gif-Sur-Yvette, France.

Because the lake sediments were deposited at a high and steady rate over a 10,000-year period, the team was able to interpolate the date of the layer showing the magnetic reversal, called the Matuyama-Brunhes transition, at approximately 786,000 years ago. This date is far more precise than that from previous studies, which placed the reversal between 770,000 and 795,000 years ago.

“What’s incredible is that you go from reverse polarity to a field that is normal with essentially nothing in between, which means it had to have happened very quickly, probably in less than 100 years,” said Renne. “We don’t know whether the next reversal will occur as suddenly as this one did, but we also don’t know that it won’t.”

Unstable magnetic field preceded 180-degree flip

Whether or not the new finding spells trouble for modern civilization, it likely will help researchers understand how and why Earth’s magnetic field episodically reverses polarity, Renne said.

The magnetic record the Italian-led team obtained shows that the sudden 180-degree flip of the field was preceded by a period of instability that spanned more than 6,000 years. The instability included two intervals of low magnetic field strength that lasted about 2,000 years each. Rapid changes in field orientations may have occurred within the first interval of low strength. The full magnetic polarity reversal — that is, the final and very rapid flip to what the field is today — happened toward the end of the most recent interval of low field strength.

Renne is continuing his collaboration with the Italian-French team to correlate the lake record with past climate change.

Renne and Sprain’s work at the Berkeley Geochronology Center was supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Press Release by University of California – Berkeley.

REFERENCE

Sagnotti, G. Scardia, B. Giaccio, J. C. Liddicoat, S. Nomade, P. R. Renne, C. J. Sprain. Extremely rapid directional change during Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal. Geophysical Journal International, 2014; 199 (2): 1110 DOI: 10.1093/gji/ggu287

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Last magnetic flip of Earths poles happened fast: less than 100 years?, 8.8 out of 10 based on 53 ratings

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102 comments to Last magnetic flip of Earths poles happened fast: less than 100 years?

  • #

    When I read this, my thinking went into overdrive. Really interesting article. Luckily the time frame for its happening is not instantaneous, so there would be time to sort out remedies.

    1. It would surely affect Navigation, and here I wondered about air travel especially, and then Satellites in orbit, and perhaps even SatNav in cars.

    2. For some electrical humour, have no fear, because Flemings Left Hand Rule and his Right Hand Rule would still apply as always, so MagLev is still okay.

    3. For something esoteric, I suppose you’d know when it happened, when you woke up with a headache, and won’t my just saying that arouse some quizzical responses.

    Tony.

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    • #
      Peter C

      2. For some electrical humour, have no fear, because Flemings Left Hand Rule and his Right Hand Rule would still apply as always

      Was it Michael Faraday’ rule?

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      • #

        British Electrical Engineer John Fleming, for both rules, right hand for generators and left hand for electrical motors.

        First thing you learn in Generator and motor theory.

        He also invented the Thermionic Valve, you know, those ancient vacuum tube thingies, replaced by transistors.

        Aww! I’m disappointed. No bites for Point 3.

        Tony.

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        • #
          the Griss

          Toobs sound better ! :-)

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        • #
          Peter C

          OK agree about Fleming.

          3. So why did you wake up with a headache?

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          • #

            Here goes then. This may open me up for quackery.

            I have always found I sleep much better if I sleep as close as possible to North South, with my head at North. (or close to anyway) Lines up my personal magnetic field, no matter how insignificant with the Earth’s magnetic field.

            Oddly, the first I ever heard of it was in electrical trade training for DC Generator Theory in the late 60′s when I was still only a teenager, when our Sergeant Instructor told us. That’s why I always associate that right hand rule with sleeping.

            Look it up. I feel sure that in this age of the Internet, it’ll be there somewhere.

            Tony.

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            • #
              Richard111

              Now that you mention it. The wife and I are hale and hearty in our mid 70s and the bed is aligned 6 degrees from North which is head end. Not going to move the bed as it is 7 foot long and 6 foot wide. NOT kidding!

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            • #
              Andrew McRae

              So then following from my earlier comment that migrating birds use magnetic direction finding, we can anticipate pole reversal doomsayers updating Dr David Viner’s infamous statement about climate change for a pole reversal scenario.
              “If we don’t fight pole change now, one day pigeons just won’t know what North is.”

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            • #
              James Murphy

              I haven’t heard of this, but it does remind me of the theory that there’s medicinal value in sleeping in a correctly aligned pyramid – as well as said pyramid being good for sharpening knives and razors.

              As the result of much study, I have come to the conclusion that any morning headaches I have, are usually related to the volume of alcohol consumed the night before, although maybe my cause-and-effect assumptions are totally wrong, and I can now blame them on a fluctuating magnetic field – afterall, my corkscrew is ferrous.

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            • #
              CC Reader

              I once read that dogs face north when pooping. I discounted it until I started watching my pouch. Let’s start a poll, just give a thumbs up or down.

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              • #
                NielsZoo

                I didn’t want to red thumb you but I have the ideal “lab” at my place. Three of my dogs are blind (so it’s impossible for them cheat and check a compass) and they poop in all directions… sometimes in a complete circle so my vote’s against the “Poops North” theory.

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            • #
              sophocles

              I have always found I sleep much better if I sleep as close as possible to North South,

              Well, well, well. That is interesting, Tony. I won’t be flinging any accusations of quackery your way at all at all atall. I have a preference for something similar, although it’s not strong. I can sleep well pointing to any part of the compass but I feel a little more comfortable if it’s more or less aligned with the Earth’s field, which is about 20degrees East of North here. It doesn’t seem to matter if my head’s North or South just as long as I’m more or less aligned. I discovered this towards the end of my teens.

              I’ve always had a good sense of direction and been able to orient myself reliably. I first noticed this in my late teens. Then I left home and spent a few years sleeping East West and West East. It always didn’t feel quite right but I ignored it. Then I discovered my sense of direction had got up and went. When I switched back to alignment again, it quickly returned. It also became less comfortable to sleep aligned across it as I grew older.

              The East West time must have depolarised the flakes of rust in my inner ear. :-)
              Of course I’ve never applied for a grant to study this as I am a statistically insignificant sample of one.

              My wife reorganised the master bedroom one day and put the bed East West. She was very upset when I set up a North South bed in a spare room and moved in there as soon as I arrived home and discovered the change. She could set up the bed any way she liked but if it wasn’t North-South or South-North, I wasn’t sleeping in it.

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          • #
            Tim

            …”such a reversal could potentially wreak havoc with our electrical grid, generating currents that might take it down.”

            You would certainly wake up with a headache, realising that all human knowledge stored electronically had been destroyed.

            That would be some hangover.

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    • #
      Andrew McRae

      This may open me up for quackery.

      Certainly does. It’s long been speculated that ducks and other migratory animals are able to navigate over long distances using iron-rich bio-magnetic sensors in their noses. It’s not just quackery, it’s peer reviewed quackery. Or coo-ery in this case.
      Perhaps humans are capable of “quackery” in more than one sense.
      More than one sense! Get it? Wayhaay!

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      • #
        Andrew McRae

        Gah! Mods, that’s meant to be a reply to 1.1.1.2.1.

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      • #
        Olaf Koenders

        Well, this may open me up for some gunfire, but I’ll stick my head above the turret:

        It’s supposed that men can find North much easier. Whether that’s got to do with with the Sun’s arc across the sky or that men are more inclined to care from an early age where North is. However, I’ve seen women know better at times as well. It must be due to the latter.

        NOTE: From much personal experience, many Army officers can’t navigate! Duntroon, what are you teaching them? Guys, get behind a Sergeant, Corporal or Private if you want to get home.. ;)

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    • #
      Duster

      There is no strong (and not much weak) evidence that reversals have any significant effect on planetary biology and no good reason to think that a reversal would have any important effect on electronics. What a reversal would do is play merry hob with useful devices dependent on the planetary field like my Brunton pocket transit. It is not “much ado about nothing” but it probably is excess ado about something – with apologies to the Bard.

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      • #
        Philip Shehan

        Correct Duster. Magnetic fields have little effect on biology, save for pigeon navigation etc., regardless of sales of magnetic bracelets etc which are supposed to improve your health help you sleep etc.

        Working with magnets tens of thousands of times more powerful than the earth’s filed, I thought that we might be able to raise the dead on that basis.

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  • #
    bemused

    The discovery comes as new evidence indicates that the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing 10 times faster than normal, leading some geophysicists to predict a reversal within a few thousand years.

    Clearly this is all to do with anthropogenic magnetic change, all those electro-magnetic devices, motors, hard drives, magnetic bracelets etc. Also, blame the Japanese because of their mag-lev trains. And let’s not forget CERN and the LHC!!!

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  • #
    John F. Hultquist

    In the morning I will go outside and jump up and down, and maybe turn round a time or two. I don’t expect to scream and shout. A small in-place panic seems sufficient.

    Seriously, imagine what technology was in 1914 and ask how we might have prepared for a reversal to happen in 2014. Would all urban growth have been under lead shields or underground? Not that either would help, but currently all the usual suspects are in lock-step to change the world over CO2 using erroneous reasoning.
    Now go out to 2114 (another 100 years). What would one do?

    Anyway, it is George W. Bush’s fault, not mine, so ask him to fix this.

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  • #
    old44

    Bloody Global Warming.

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  • #
    Truthseeker

    We know that the Sun’s magnetic polarity flips on a frequent basis (once per cycle?) and so it is not much of a stretch to suggest that ours does as well. It is not just the weakening of the magnetic field (which is likely to have significant climate implications) that is occurring, but the shifting of the location of magnetic north (and south) which will hit some sort of “tipping point” and the flip will accelerate.

    It is good to see scientists using observations and doing like real science. At least geology has not gone to the dark side of computer modeling.

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    • #

      Judas Priest!

      It is not just the weakening of the magnetic field (which is likely to have significant climate implications) that is occurring, but the shifting of the location of magnetic north (and south) which will hit some sort of “tipping point” and the flip will accelerate.

      Just imagine what that’s going to mean for North Pole Sea Ice!

      The warmists will go into hyperdrive.

      Tony.

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      • #
        tom0mason

        The big problem will be during the change-over, as defined magnetic poles become vague. The ionosphere will be a mess, causing all sorts of strange things. What happens to the ozone layer? Tropical aurora perhaps?
        Satelitte comms will be affected as will all the radio transmissions as the earths ionized layers become less stable causing increased noise, also radio propagation too will be very much less predictable.
        Also the instability would allow more cosmic rays to (irratically) reach the lower levels of the atmosphere. Is that where they get the idea of more cancers?

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        • #
          tom0mason

          I don’t know how I ended up replying to you TonyfromOz, I thought I was putting a new entry in.
          Strangeness already :)

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        • #
          Olaf Koenders

          I doubt the flip will be a problem to life on Earth, considering that if the last flip occurred 786,000 years ago, there are no mass extinctions in evidence. I doubt somehow there’d be an increase of cancers though, considering Ozone is both created and destroyed by sunlight as it always has.

          You might well be right concerning the ionosphere, since our communications rely much on this being somewhat constant. I wonder if the Van Allen radiation belts will be affected?

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        • #
          Olaf Koenders

          I should also add, that an increase of cancers in general because of a magnetic flip seems like expecting same because you move to a different house and your bed is in a different N/S orientation. It’s highly dubious.

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        • #
          Philip Shehan

          The geographical north magnetic pole attracts the north pole of compass needles. Which means that the north geographic pole is actually a south pole as defined by laboratory convention.

          I would not dismiss the health consequences during the transition period when the field weakens though. The magnetic filed is responsible for the ionosphere which does act as a radiation shield.

          00

      • #
        sophocles

        Tony! You just had to, didn’t you! :-) Stop giving the cretinous coprocephalics ideas! At once.

        10

  • #
    tom0mason

    There is also a lot of nature that get directional cues during travel and migrations that are very linked to the earths magnetic field. Birds, bees, fish all are strongly affected, as are anphibians. Possibly some humans are!

    Are we going to get birds flying to the wrong places even in the wrong direction, and Atlantic salmon swimming to Australia? Who knows…

    60

    • #

      …..and Atlantic salmon swimming to Australia?

      Yippee! Yum!

      Tony.

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    • #
      CC Reader

      http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/pdf/1742-9994-10-80.pdf

      “Results: Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm MF conditions”

      You thought I was joking?

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      • #
        Olaf Koenders

        Oh no’s!

        Dogs poo in any direction due to human-caused magnetic change – I could fix that in maybe 50 years with adequate funding. Don’t expect results too soon. Contact me at the IPCC.

        00

    • #
      Philip Shehan

      I doubt that a reverse in the filed will confuse animals or insects, unless it changes while they are navigating. Whatever “fix” they get at the start at the beginning of their journey (or possible at the beginning of their lives for salmon hatchlings) is used as the reference point for how their orientation changes.

      00

  • #
    Fox From Melbourne

    I wonder how long its going to take the Greens to blame Carbon Emissions for the end of the world pole flip. I can just hear Christine Milne in the distance say we need a Carbon tax to save us all. From what I actually think she has no idea but hey when has that stopped her kind before. Anyway when it flips Australian will then be on top of the world again just as it was 786000 years ago. That something to think about.

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    • #
      James Murphy

      It’s obviously Gina Rinehart and her fellow ‘unethical’ iron ore magnates (not magnets), who can be blamed for moving vast amounts of magnetic material around the globe.

      Bush, Howard and Blair are also to blame for all that ferrous material dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Lastly, Rupert Murdoch is also to blame, as his newspaper inks not only contain carbon, but iron compounds too…

      At a stretch, I’d say that Alan Jones and his talk-back radio ilk are also responsible, as they promote the use of radios – which contain magnets.

      Seriously though, I recall one of my geophysics lecturers saying that the earths magnetic field intensity is now about 1/3 of what is was when the Roman Empire was doing what it did. Aside from possible transmission problems, I wouldn’t think the GPS or similar systems would be affected, as they do not rely on the magnetic field for anything.

      I’d say that in my line of work, it could be very interesting as, while being drilled, oil wells are heavily reliant on direction and inclination surveys to know where the bit is, both in order to hit targets, and also to avoid other areas, or indeed, other wells. Obviously it’d be pretty unusual for the magnetic field to change over the course of a few wells, but I would hope that records would be kept so that planning would incorporate such drift. You’d think such data would be routinely kept, but disturbingly often, this is not always the case, even within companies which make seriously large buckets of cash from providing such services.

      On another point, why is it perfectly acceptable for geophysicists and magnetotelluric specialists to say that they do not know why, how, or when the poles will swap, yet a system of (presumably) similar, or greater complexity – ‘the climate’ is settled – especially when these systems interact…?

      60

      • #
        the Griss

        Actually, the rare earths magnets for wind turbines have a much stronger magnetic field.

        They even attract non-metallic items such as eagles, hawks, owls etc.

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        • #
          James Murphy

          That can’t possibly be the case – how dare you speak ill of wind turbines…!

          Besides which, I imagine it would be argued that wind turbine magnets are ‘different’ somehow, having been created with love, care, (and lots of emotive thinking about children and grandchildren) and imbued with ‘special’ planet saving Gaia energy.

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          • #
            Fox From Melbourne

            Save the birds kill the bird blenders. That are stealing “Gaia” energy. Coal, oil, natural gas are all made by Ancient life not “Gaia” James. Wind turbines stealing energy and kill wild life. What was that energy meant to be doing I ask and what happens to the Climate if its stolen along the way? What catastrophic unprecedented consequences could happen because of the use of these wind turbines James? Don’t know just make something up and go on TV and pretend to be a Scientist and get a great big research grant to pretend to find out. Sounds familiar anyone?

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          • #
            James Murphy

            OK, so I am guessing the red thumb means that my sarcasm was hidden better than ‘the decline’?

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            • #
              Fox From Melbourne

              Your sarcasm was almost as hidden as the decline. I think my sarcasm was as hidden just a little bit more. But it not a competition James is a blog. No winners here just readers and writes. Please keep up the sarcasm mate thanks for your reply.

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            • #
              the Griss

              Sarcasm with a huge red target painted on it.. is not “hidden”

              The red thumb will be just the mute, dumb, AGnW twerp who puts red thumbs on many post but is too shy or ignorant to say anything.

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        • #
          Raven

          They even attract non-metallic items such as eagles, hawks, owls etc.


          . . . and taxpayer funded subsidies.

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        • #
          CriddleDog

          Why do they need rare earth magnets? I thought they were Induction Generators. Probably showing my ignorance here!

          00

      • #
        tom0mason

        GPS would be dead!

        Magnetic poles are required to maintain a stable magnetosphere. Without a stable magnetosphere the ionoshere is very disrupted and disruptive.

        Without a magnetosphere the earth’s ionosphere will be highly variable. All previous critical path calculation to overcome natural noise would be invalid, as the signals would now get buried in noise, and their propagation path, through the now highly variable ionosphere, would be distorted.

        http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/SABER-aurora.html

        20

    • #
      Ted O'Brien.

      Australia has been on the top side of the world for as long as I have known it. Anybody knows that land is heavier than water, so the Northern Hemisphere is the heavy side, so it must be on the bottom.

      60

      • #
        sophocles

        Sure. And many people don’t think about the fact that the North magnetic pole is actually a magnetic south pole. As like poles repel and unlike poles attract, has to be to attract the north pole of a magnetic compass needle.

        It’s the South magnetic pole which is a magnetic north pole at present.

        So there’s some supporting evidence for your thesis.

        00

        • #
          Philip Shehan

          Correct Sophocles. Did not see your post before I put mine up above.

          Not unlike the convention that the direction of electric current flow is defined as the movement of positive charges. This was instituted before the realisation that it is negatively charges electrons which move down the wire.

          00

  • #
    JoKaH

    Flipp’n magnetic poles – can’t trust em!

    30

  • #
    michael hart

    Well, it’s certainly an interesting topic.

    But,

    And since Earth’s magnetic field protects life from energetic particles from the sun and cosmic rays, both of which can cause genetic mutations, a weakening or temporary loss of the field before a permanent reversal could increase cancer rates. The danger to life would be even greater if flips were preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior.

    “We should be thinking more about what the biologic effects would be,” Renne said.

    Unless Renne has found a cure for cancer that others haven’t then he would probably be wasting his time. Or maybe he has a cunning plan to stabilise the Earth’s magnetic field?

    30

  • #
    ozwizard

    Downunder becomes Upover?

    80

  • #
    tom0mason

    Here is an interesting website that covers all the same item as the paper as Joanne cites above (Extremely rapid directional change during Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal), except that the website authors assume this process will take millions of years.

    http://syzygyastro.hubpages.com/hub/Geomagnetic-Reversal-and-its-Effects

    There are some very effective videos and a lot of hypothesizing of what will happen – very similar to the arguments here.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Also here is a paper about the earth’s mantle and geomagnetism and how they could be affected by volcanic, earthquakes and comet collision effects.
    published in Geophysical Research Letters, vol 29 pp 41-1 to 41-4 (2002)
    [reference in new AGU format: 29(19), 1935, DOI 10.1029/2002GL015938, 2002]
    Avalanches at the core-mantle boundary
    Richard A. Muller, Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley

    Abstract.
    The partial collapse of topographic structure at the core-mantle boundary (CMB) in avalanches, slumps or turbidity flows, would cause sudden temperature changes in both the upper core and the lower mantle. Although such collapses are hypothetical, it is interesting to investigate the potential consequences. Downwelling from such events could disrupt core convection cells and trigger geomagnetic excursions and reversals.

    http://lib.znate.ru/docs/index-31914.html

    10

  • #
    Peter

    So, what happens during the transition period ? If the process takes maybe 100 years to complete “the flip”, that looks like 2 or 3 generations living through what ?

    30

    • #
      JLC

      Caveat: I am not a scientist.

      There can be multiple north and south poles moving around on the planet. Eventually it settles down to one north and one south pole, in the opposite orientation to the previous state.

      Magnetic navigation would be all but impossible with the magnetic field swirling around like that.

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      • #
        Peter C

        Magnetic navigation would be all but impossible with the magnetic field swirling around like that.

        That is very likely. Just as well that the Pacific Island navigators did not use magnetic compasses, preferring stars and prevailing winds, reflected waves and some cloud formations.

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        • #
          Rereke Whakaaro

          Being serious for a moment (just for a short moment), navigation satellites are independent of the earth’s magnetic field, so military drones will still remain operational. I do hope that makes you feel more secure.

          Most modern commercial aircraft also use satellite navigation, even if it directs them to fly over a war zone where at least one of the combatants has Surface to Air Missiles.

          Most commercial pilots can use star charts, but only at night, and only if they are above cloud. This makes decent for landing somewhat interesting if there is cloud cover over the airport approach.

          It is ships that I worry about. In the main they still rely on magnetic compasses, and there are not many mariners who can navigate by star charts. I guess they will learn really really fast?

          40

          • #
            JLC

            Presumably ships can also use signals from navigation satellites.

            30

            • #
              tom0mason

              Presumably ships can also use signals from navigation satellites.

              Probably not as these quite weak satellite signals will be corrupted by the increased ionispheric noise.
              http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1369043/ionosphere-and-magnetosphere
              As earth’s magnetosphere protect us and our electronic devices from the harsh effects of solar ionic and magnetic storms, and highly energetic cosmic rays and particles that produce higher e/m (radio) interference, we can also expect many electronic devices to fail due to increased radiation reaching ground level.
              Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionosphere

              Also known about but little studies is the effect on ocean current. As the ocean is a mild conductor of electricity in the earth’s magnetic field, sea movement causes electrical currents to move through the oceans. These electrical currents can also affect the seawater ionic balance, and therefor could affect the life in the sea. These electrical currents also form weak magnetic fields to be set-up at some localities on the planet.

              http://www.geomag.us/info/Smaus/Doc/ocean_encycl.pdf

              20

          • #
            tom0mason

            Rereke Whakaaro

            Being serious for a moment (just for a short moment), navigation satellites are independent of the earth’s magnetic field, so military drones will still remain operational.

            Satellites will be prone to failure as the earth’s magnetosphere no longer protects the planet from the dangerous and very damaging effect of cosmic rays and solar wind particles and radiation.

            Our modern lives are bound-up with the stability of the magnetic domains. The loss of the magnetic poles will have many and far reaching effects as modern systems for our everyday life fail.

            Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth’s interior to where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. Its magnitude at the Earth’s surface ranges from 25 to 65 microtesla (0.25 to 0.65 gauss)…
            …The magnetosphere is the region above the ionosphere and extends several tens of thousands of kilometers into space, protecting the Earth from the charged particles of the solar wind and cosmic rays that would otherwise strip away the upper atmosphere, including the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation….

            But on the plus side Wiki thinks that like Mars we will lose CO2.

            …Earth’s magnetic field serves to deflect most of the solar wind, whose charged particles would otherwise strip away the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.[3] One stripping mechanism is for gas to be caught in bubbles of magnetic field, which are ripped off by solar winds.[4] Calculations of the loss of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Mars, resulting from scavenging of ions by the solar wind, indicate that the dissipation of the magnetic field of Mars caused a near-total loss of its atmosphere.[5][6]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic

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            Increasingly not so. Look up GPS compass.

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        Philip Shehan

        My understanding is that poles will always be roughly north-south because the filed is generated by the rotation of the molten iron core which roughly coincides with the rotation of the earth. Roughly because true and magnetic north are not exactly the same and magnetic north does wander around a little.

        What I don’t understand is that this would imply that the iron core flips over and is rotating in the opposite direction, but this should generate drag on the crust/mantle when rotating in the opposite direction, to the surface rotation, which would slow the rotation of the earth.

        Anyone got an explanation?

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    Orang Putih

    We can fix that. Just raise the price of everything and increase taxes and penalties on anyone using a compass.
    After all, we beat global warming that way didn’t we?

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      James Murphy

      You’re a genius! This is an excellent idea, although ideally, it should be tax on anything which can be magnetised. Unfortunately this should probably include oxygen, as that exhibits paramagnetic properties…

      Actually, geologists of any calibre often have a compass/clinometer about their person when working, if not a hammer as well. As we all now know, geologists (like me) are inherently ‘unethical’, so I guess the tax should be doubled, or maybe tripled… quadrupled if they happen to work for ‘big oil’.

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    Graeme No.3

    For those who want to look further http://iceagenow.info/

    WARNING: This web site contains politically incorrect statements and news.

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    Peter C

    I attended the Patrick Moore Luncheon today at the Australia Club. $110 for lunch and the talk plus the chance to ask questions. Some people might think that $110 is too much just for lunch. I have to tell you that I thought it was very good value for the meal alone, which was excellent and included as much wine as anyone wanted to drink. On top of that the Australia Club is very exclusive and rarely opens its doors to visitors. One finds a doorway on William St with simple adornment of 110 (nothing else to indicate that it is one of the most exclusive clubs in Melbourne). The interior is pure history and exudes wealth. We had our lunch in the Australia Room which is decorated with frescoes of Australian wild flowers. I had the very great pleasure to sit with John Spooner (co author with Bob Carter and William Kinninmonth of “TAXING AIR”),and his wife Ingridi. I also met some other luminaries.

    Patrick Moore was magnificent. He has a great command of the Green issues and Global Warming in particular. He is articulate and he is able to reduce issues into a way that all can understand.

    I asked a question about what was causing the current rise in CO2 (given his earlier graph which showed no correlation with temperature and predicated with the view that warming leads increases in CO2. He was quite on top of it. His view is that the current slight rise in CO2 is likely due to burning of fossil fuel, but it is an abnormal situation in ecological history. CO2 is plant food. The earth could do with a lot more of it. Only benefit, no downside.

    It was a pity that only about 40 people took this opportunity to hear him.

    I was told that he was due to appear on the Jon Faine ABC radio program yesterday. However Jon called in sick and his replacement refused to interview Patrick Moore!

    He was supposed to talk to some politicians. I hope he had 2 hours with Tony Abbott. Pity that Greg Hunt is such a waste of time. Most of us agreed on that.

    For those places still on his tour I suggest that you try to attend.

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      Tim

      “I was told that he was due to appear on the Jon Faine ABC radio program yesterday. However Jon called in sick and his replacement refused to interview Patrick Moore!”

      How convenient. Bravo ABC. When will Jon be back? We wish him a speedy recovery.

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    John M

    “Imagine the world waking up one morning to discover that all compasses pointed south instead of north”

    Past magnetic reversals have been accompanied by mass extinction events in the fossil records. It’s unclear exactly why the extinctions occured, but it is possible that our magnetic field collapses for a period of time before rebuilding with opposite polarity. During a peiod of weak field, the solar wind could blow part of our atmosphere away, causing oxygen depletion. Rather than waking up, it might cause a very long sleep-in. :(

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    Lawrence Cooper

    Hold your horses and let’s get some reality into this mess. I distinctly remember my astrophysics classes covering the phenomena of Earth flipping its magnetic polarity as well as THE SUN FLIPPING ITS MAGNETIC POLARITY.

    Yes the Sun can do this and it HAS DONE THIS.

    So what happens when the polarity of one or the other flips – instead of having a magnetosphere that protects us from the solar wind, we have a magnetosphere that connects directly to that of the Sun which allows directly injection of solar particles into our atmosphere.

    To which I say, YAWN.

    We’ve survived it before and we will survive it again.

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      Philip Shehan

      I don’t think that the solar wind will be sucked in by a flip in either one of the polarities. The opposite axes will always have opposite polarities, and the solar wind is electrically charged, not magnetic particles which are deflected by the earth’s field. This is the principle behind old cathode ray TV screens.

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    Eddie

    Isn’t it amazing how you can read what you expect.

    I kept reading this as:-
    Last magnetic flip of Earths poles happened last: less than 100 years ago?

    Couldn’t wait to tell my brother-in-law who was predicting cataclysmic events last was it 2012, to say:- Look, it’ll be all right really.

    Only when starting into the text did I realise it was inconsistent with the headline, we’ll the in-my- head line anyway.

    That’s what comes with divided attention.

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    Roy Hogue

    I expect that life can cope even with this “disaster”. But I have a great idea. Let’s divert some of the money wasted on climate change into projects to figure out the Earth’s magnetic field behavior. Maybe we can actually end up being prepared for the next reversal.

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      PeterS

      A magnetic reversal would devastate modern society as it will not only seriously impact climate change and technology, such as satellites and computers (they would be rendered useless) but also our protection from deadly radiation from space. This will happen during the transition phase as our shield that protects us disappears. Unless the reversal was instantaneous, which is unlikely, much of life would be destroyed during the transition phase. So, a reversal is very close to being an extinction level event. Let’s hope we don’t get one.

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        Geoffrey Cousens

        Exactly.

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        Roy Hogue

        A magnetic reversal would devastate modern society…

        My God! I guess I better make sure my will is in order and my life insurance is paid up. Or should I stop and think a little first? To hear some people this will be a repeat of the Y2K bug “disaster” that destroyed every computer on Earth because they couldn’t handle the transition from year 1999 to 2000, taking down modern society along with the computers. Only a funny thing happened on the way to the disaster. Computer programmers went to work and simply fixed the bug and when midnight December 31, 1999 rolled over to January 1, 2000, nothing happened. Meanwhile the talking heads went right on blathering about disaster, disaster, disaster…right up until the big surprise that nothing happened.

        Then there’s global warming that by now has boiled every last human on Earth in his own sweat. Only that hasn’t happened either. But the blathering still proceeds apace.

        I’m sure a magnetic pole reversal will be trouble. But life is tough, especially human life. I’m not buying this total destruction of every system with an electron in it. We’re too capable these days and with warning of danger we can prepare and get through. Maybe it gets tough. So what? It’s been tough before and it’ll be tough again, even if the magnetic pole reversal doesn’t happen.

        No matter what may have happened to life during past pole reversals, humans have a brain and we should use it to figure out what’s really going on, how much danger it really represents, how to mitigate that danger and get through it.

        Hope is not a plan for coping. Hope is ignorance at work. You might as well cross your fingers.

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          Roy Hogue

          The problems will be just three that I can see.

          1. The magnetic field does protect us from radiation from space and this could be a real problem.

          2. Your compass becomes useless until the new pole orientation is mapped out and everyone understands it.

          3. For electronic systems the problem will be voltages induced where they will cause undefined states or even destroy components. But the voltage induced depends on the rate of change of magnetic flux. If the change happens over 100 years that’s hardly a noticeable rate of change and you’ll be worrying about your compass, not your computers. I have no idea how fast the change would need to happen to induce destructive voltages in anything but I think it would need to be fast, as in seconds or less.

          If you think I’m wrong I’m willing to listen and be corrected. But let’s start with a sound analysis of the problem.

          In the meantime we apparently have a long time to figure this out and get ready for it.

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            NielsZoo

            Induced currents from flux are a non problem in a field reversal, especially since they kind of ebb and scramble during reversals if the historical data is correct… and I also have some problems with assumptions made in the paleomagnetics field (no pun intended.) I’d need to read the paper, but I have big doubts about the claimed 100 year time frame anyway.

            If there was going to be an actual induction problem, walking around on the planet with an electronic device in your hand would screw it up right now. A half a Gauss field is not likely to induce much of anything and reversals are lower than that during the event.

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              Roy Hogue

              Induced currents from flux are a non problem in a field reversal…

              I don’t know if that will be true or not. It’s true as you say that walking around with a device in your hand is harmless to the device. But the rate of change of magnetic flux is trivial from even movement through the Earth’s magnetic field at high speeds.

              But I don’t know what the result would be if the Earth’s field changed direction in say a few seconds. And I’m not enough of an expert to figure out what that kind of reversal would be able to do.

              I suspect however, that any change will be over a long time and the disruption of the magnetic compass will be the most severe problem.

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            Philip Shehan

            The compass fix is simple. Cross out the “N” and replace it with “S” and vice versa. Problems during the transition phase though.

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              David

              The compass fix is simple

              No it isn’t Phillip. If I take the glass off the compass in the binnacle all the wet stuff that dampens the compass card will leak out. And hours amending charts, not to mention confusion for our Kiwi cousins with their islands now being the other way around.

              Bugger I think it is time for a rum

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    Richard Hill

    A year or so ago, a geophysicist told me that some of his colleagues think that a new separate South Magnetic Pole is forming currently in the South Atlantic. Perhaps this has already been noted in the discussion, but if not, it would be a very interesting development in the terrestial magnetic area.

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      Graeme No.3

      Richard Hill:

      I remember that from an article in the Scientific American in 1974. (has always stuck in my mind). Then they thought there would be 3 south poles including one due south of Australia.

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    Ernest Bush

    There is data out there that suggests the poles have flipped much more often than this. It is also obvious when you plot where the poles were during the last hundred years by year that the movement of the poles is accelerating. New data also suggests that we may only be decades away from a pole reversal if the trend continues. Swarm satellite data suggests the drop in the strength of the magnetic field is currently happening ten times faster than previously thought, about 5 percent per decade. We are slowly becoming bigger and bigger sitting ducks for solar flares and coronal mass ejections. By the time a reversal rolls around it might be the final blow in a series of catastrophes.

    Just realized I sound like a Warmist doomsayer. The data I keep mentioning comes from the European Space Agency, NASA, a Scientific American article, and various web sites.

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    RoHa

    We’re doomed.

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    Geoffrey Cousens

    I concur with Mr.Bush[above]The mammoths snap froze,completely wiped out,”recently”.Whole islands in the Bering Strait consist of little else but mammoth bones.
    A pole shift would do this.What else could?
    Meat from frozen mammoths is perfectly edible and can therefore be no more than a few thousand years old.

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      sophocles

      A large impactor. The Younger Dryas was a sudden re-chill after the last glaciation ended and the ice caps were happily melting. It wasn’t just the mammoths which were affected. much of the fauna on the grasslands directly south of the ice were affected too. The end of the YD seems to be pretty precipitate too.

      The melt water from the original glaciers may have re-frozen very quickly and then almost as quickly remelted 1500 Y later. There seems to be some evidence of flooding around Northern Siberia …

      The YD temperature and climate excursion is still controversial.

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        Geoffrey Cousens

        The end of the YD?12,000 years ago and getting warmer since,well up and down.These creatures have been permanently frozen,without any thaw-refreeze.I just find it hard to believe anything could stay edible that long.
        Anyway,what happened to them is my personal benchmark for genuine climate change.

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        Ernest Bush

        Robert Felix of Ice Age Now theorizes that the mammoths and some other large mammals froze very quickly, as in hours. Whole herds apparently have been found frozen standing up. Elsewhere they seem to be piled on top of one another sand pile fashion He thinks that during the magnetic reversal of 13,500 years ago, there was massive volcanic activity along the mid ocean ridges causing sudden heating above them. The result would have been massive amounts of water vapor released into a weather pattern similar to last winter. Snowfall would have been measured in inches per minute under his scenario. Mammoths would have been climbing over one another as the snow quickly piled up to get above the snow level. The amount of snow would have to have been epic to bury such a pile quickly and freeze it in place.

        There is some evidence to support his theory about magnetic reversals and nightmare weather. I am sure there is evidence that seems contradictory, also. Thus, there is controversy. It bears thinking about. There must have been really abundant food supplies to accommodate the large number of herds. I read elsewhere that most of the ivory industry of the 1800s was supported by harvesting mammoth tusks washing out of river banks as glaciers melted. It’s probable that modern landscapes bear little resemblance to those existing 13,500 years ago. Recently it was discovered that some rain forests might not be as old as was thought. It is known that conifer forests existed at some point in what is the modern day U.S. Desert Southwest.

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    sophocles

    The Earth’s magnetic field magnitude at the Earth’s surface ranges from 25 to 65 microtesla (0.25 to 0.65 gauss).
    That’s 25 – 65 x 10** -6 tesla, which is pretty small. If that flips direction, we probably won’t notice except for magnetic compasses. That’s ten to the power of minus six. Or, as far as magnetic fields are concerned, it’s about a sixth of the relative concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, if you want some analogous form of comparison. Yep, a really strong (*cough*) and powerful (**cough cough**) magnetic field. And we all know just how powerful and strong that concentration of CO2 is for the planet’s climate.

    Most navigation these days is done with gyro-compasses which are non-magnetic, so there will be no disasters there.
    Same with the GPS systems.

    The field strength is too small to be noticed by the many and various national grids. Any problems there are more likely to be due to human interference.

    Migratory birds navigate by the stars so they won’t get lost either.

    The galaxy has been using our atmosphere for its own private cloud chamber for over 4 billion years. There may a very slight up tick there but as our field’s strength is insufficient to bat any of that stuff away, it’s also going to go unnoticed.

    About the only thing I’m expecting to change is the auroras. The Aurora Australis will swap with the Aurora Borealis :-) (now let’s see if there’s anyone gullible enough to accept that! heh heh,)

    Lost boy scouts on navigation exercises are always a disaster to a doting parent or two and that may happen.

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      NielsZoo

      Lost boy scouts on navigation exercises are always a disaster to a doting parent or two and that may happen.

      When I was in the Scouts I was taught that the first thing you did was check your map’s magnetic declination (printed on every map) against field conditions by siting a physical feature and comparing it’s magnetic bearing to it’s true bearing from the map. Before the days of satellite maps, topographic maps could be many decades from their last updates and declinations change, especially the closer to the pole you are. Otherwise you’re just asking to miss your final destination and must suffer jokes and ridicule for not being able to read a map and use a compass.

      You’ve probably right though and Scouts are no longer taught orienteering but instead to follow MapQuest on their smartphone and the ionization increases will hinder their cell service.

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        sophocles

        Ah, yes. The Art of Compass Resections.

        - Idenifying a feature on a map is always a problem. It looks a lot different on a map.
        - There are more than four ways to orient a map and only one of them is right.
        - Depending on the time of day, orienting N on the map to the sun may be quite incorrect. (For the benefit of those in the NH, you orient N away from the sun, which creates many more exciting possibilities for error.)
        - Measuring magnetic declination can be an exciting step, especially when working off the bonnet of Dad’s SUV and it changes depending on how tall the holder of the compass is and where he/she is standing relative to the SUV. Well, that’s where it’s most convenient to work with the map.
        - Having the protractor upside down changes calculations. Should be obvious with all the numbers back to front but young minds are very adaptable. Most forget to correct by subracting 90 degrees.
        - Identifying where in the triangle of error you are located is a real puzzle, especially when it’s off the map.

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        barn E. rubble

        RE: NielsZoo
        October 29, 2014 at 1:44 am ·

        “You’ve probably right though and Scouts are no longer taught orienteering but instead to follow MapQuest on their smartphone and the ionization increases will hinder their cell service.”

        Well not here in S. Ontario, as a Scout Leader, we were just out (10/30) preparing for the area wide ‘Amazing Race’ that is mostly an orienteering competition among local troops (with some knot tying challenges, etc. along the way). Near as I know all Scout troops still have to learn how to read a compass/orienteering.

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    Albert

    The development of GPS has saved us from calamity with the changing poles

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