Florida's Tampa International airport closed its primary runway on Thursday after a shift in earth's northern magnetic pole made it impossible for planes to take accurate bearings.
The primary runway will remain closed until January 13, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Earth's poles are changing constantly, and when they change more than three degrees, that can affect runway numbering, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told Fox News. Information on the movement of earth's magnetic fields is vital for planes' proper navigation on the runways. Runway designations and charting rely on geomagnetic information and that aviation is charted using latitude and longitude and the magnetic poles, explained Bergen.
This kind of occurrence is rare. It happens so infrequently that they wouldn't venture a guess, Paul Takemoto, another FAA spokesman told Fox News.
The latest phenomenon is just part of an ongoing shift of the north magnetic pole towards Russia, which is happening at the rate of 25 miles or 40 kilometers, per year, according to latest research.
A National Geographic article in 2005 said that the pole has moved 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) over the over the past century from Arctic Canada toward Siberia. The report quoted Joe Stoner, a paleomagnetist at Oregon State University.
According to him the pole could move to Siberia within the next 50 years, and he added that the movement of the pole was accelerating.
Now, is this a worrying phenomenon worth holding breath and waiting for doomsday signs? No, according to scientists.
The National Geographic article explains: The north magnetic pole shifts constantly, in loops up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide each day. The recorded location of the pole is really an average of its daily treks, which are driven by fluctuations in solar radiation.
But the Tampa airport runway closure report ominously set in motion another round of doomsday talk as people shared anxiety on internet discussion forums about the impending apocalypse in 2012 as predicted by the Mayan calendar. On YouTube, people linked it with the Mayan calendar prophecies and said they would stock up on provisions, medicines and other stuff.
Obviously people have associated the northern pole's magnetic shift to the putatively catastrophic phenomenon of polar reversal, which can result in calamities such as floods and tectonic events.
Here's what Wikipedia says about the implications of a polar shift: The cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis is the conjecture that there have been rapid shifts in the relative positions of the modern-day geographic locations of the poles and the axis of rotation of a planet. For the Earth, such a dynamic change could create calamities such as floods and tectonic events. This type of event would occur if the physical poles had been or would be suddenly shifted with respect to the underlying surface over a geologically short time frame. This hypothesis is almost always discussed in the context of Earth, but other bodies in the Solar System may have experienced axial reorientation during their existences.
... in what is known as true polar wander, the solid Earth can rotate with respect to a fixed spin axis. Research shows that during the last 200 million years a total true polar wander of some 30° has occurred, but that no super-rapid shifts in the Earth's pole were found during this period. A characteristic rate of true polar wander is 1° per million years or less. Between approximately 790 and 810 million years ago, when the supercontinent Rodinia existed, two geologically-rapid phases of true polar wander may have occurred. In each of these, the Earth rotated ~55°, says Wikipedia.
This pole shift hypotheses should not be confused with geomagnetic reversal, which is a periodic reversal of the Earth's magnetic field, it says.
2012 TO WITNESS CATASTROPHIC POLAR REVERSAL?
However, not everyone is willing to buy the popular scientific wisdom regarding true polar shift. Researcher and author Patrick Geryl is of the opinion that the next (physical) polar reversal will take place in 2012. He says the North Pole will be changed into the South Pole and the earth will start rotating in the opposite direction, causing calamities of unknown proportions.
He paints the horror in an article on survive2012.com: ...life after a polar reversal is nothing but horror, pure unimaginable horror. All securities you presently have at hand, like - amongst others - food, transport, and medicines, will have disappeared in one big blow, dissolved into nothingness. As will our complete civilization. It cannot be more horrifying than this; worse than the worst nightmare. More destructive than a nuclear war in which the entire global arsenal of nuclear weapons has been deployed in one blow.
Geryl postulates that a phenomenal change in our sun which results in a chaotic outburst that releases immense clouds of plasma into space can impact the earth. What discredits Geryl is that there is no way to predict such an outburst, but even if it would happen it would only affect the magnetic poles, which would not cause the doomsday scenario he describes.