True North – whatever that means #science #space #climate #northpole

Wandering magnetic North Pole

Wandering magnetic North Pole

To find the North Pole, you travel north, right?

It depends on which North Pole you’re after.

Earth turns around an axis like a giant spinning top. The places where that invisible axis intersects with the planet’s surface are the north and south rotational poles. Due to Earth’s wobble on its axis, these spots drift in roughly decade-long cycles… [and are] completely separate [from] the planet’s magnetic poles, which also reverse periodically over the course of millions of years… the geographic north and south poles [are] the long-term averages of those rotational positions.

Now, as global warming melts ice and pumping drains aquifers, Earth’s distribution of mass is changing—and so are the rotational poles. Earth’s northern pole is drifting rapidly eastward.

Well, “rapidly” in geologic terms.

The change isn’t fast enough for the average person to notice – you don’t need to replace your maps and globes today – though you could write a poem about it. For science, understanding what’s happening could lead to “more accurate predictions of changes in climate in the future.”

It all reminds me of the old joke-question asking if all the people in China jumped at the same time, could they change the Earth’s spin? Instead the joke should be, if all the people in China (and everywhere else) burn fossil fuels at the same time, can they change the Earth’s spin? Now the answer is “yes” and it’s not nearly as funny.

Thanks to


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