Santa’s New Home: The North Pole is Moving to Russia
The North Pole is moving and quickly. Is someone stealing Christmas?
It is not the Grinch or Vladimir Putin that is stealing Santa’s workshop, but instead it’s the natural processes of the Earth that are moving the North Pole. In fact, since scientists have been tracking the anomaly in the Arctic, the North Magnetic Pole has been shifting towards Russia.
So why exactly is the pole moving, and what does it mean?
Charting a Course: Magnetic North
A compass always points towards the North Magnetic Pole. Maritime and airplane navigation systems, defense systems, and even smartphones depend on accurate magnetic readings.
This magnetism has been long known, but the true origins of this force were poorly understood. In one of the first maps of the Arctic by Gerardus Mercator, the centerpiece of it was massive rock located exactly at the pole, Rupus Nigra et Altissima, or “Black, Very High Cliff.”
Most people thought that this rock formation was magnetic, which provided an easy explanation for why compasses point north. This did not convince Mercator, so he included a different rock, which he labeled the “Magnetic Pole.”
Mercator was right about the general location of Magnetic North, but he did not have the tools we have today to understand how the anomaly moves. The North Magnetic Pole is a spot on the top of the planet where the Earth’s magnetic ﬁeld lines converge and drive straight into its core.
As it turns out, the Earth’s physical structure is behind all this magnetic shifting. The planet’s inner core is made of solid iron, while surrounding that is a molten metallic outer core. It’s from here that heat escapes, creating electric currents in the conductive iron alloys in the core.
In other words, the processes that create the magnetic effect are far more complex — and occur way deeper in the planet — than Mercator could have ever imagined.
The Dynamo Effect
The Earth itself spins on its axis. The inner core spins as well, and it spins at a different rate than the outer core. This creates a dynamo effect that enables the Earth’s magnetic field.
Satellite data tracking the Earth’s magnetic field indicate that the pole is moving faster across the Arctic than previously recorded. While it’s hard to estimate an exact date by which the North Pole will lie in Russia (due to contested geographic claims in the Arctic), it will eventually get there.
What surprises scientists is the rate at which the movement has increased in recent history:
This is happening because of a push and pull between two unusually strong magnetic patches in the Earth’s outer core. One patch is under Canada while the other is beneath Siberia.
The North Magnetic Pole has historically lain within Canadian borders because of stronger pull of the Canadian magnetic patch, but that is changing rapidly.
The Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know?
Scientists can study the phenomenon of moving poles by examining the rocks lying on the ocean floor that captured magnetic traces of previous orientations of the Earth’s magnetic field.
According to the geological record, the last time the poles switched was ~780,000 years ago, and it has happened about 400 times in 330 million years. Each reversal takes roughly a thousand years to complete. The field has weakened about 10% in the last 150 years. Some scientists think this is a sign of a flip in progress.
Technology is advancing and providing new tools for scientists to study this phenomenon. In 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the SWARM mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field using satellites. This will provide data for modeling the geomagnetic field and its interaction with other physical aspects of Earth, offering a look inside the Earth from space.
Happy Holidays from Visual Capitalist
Just like Santa going down the chimney of every home to deliver presents to all the girls and boys, Visual Capitalist wants to deliver a better understanding of the world we live in, so we can better appreciate how amazing it is. This is our small present to the world.
Happy Holidays to all, and a prosperous New Year.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?
Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?
Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.
Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.
With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.
Double-Digit Inflation in 2022
As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.
|Country||Inflation Rate, Year-Over-Year||Date|
|🇿🇼 Zimbabwe||269.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇧 Lebanon||162.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela||156.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇾 Syria||139.0%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇩 Sudan||103.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||88.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇷 Turkey||85.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||66.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇷 Iran||52.2%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇷 Suriname||41.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇭 Ghana||40.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇺 Cuba||37.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇦 Laos||36.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||34.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇹 Ethiopia||31.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇼 Rwanda||31.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇹 Haiti||30.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||29.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇰 Pakistan||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇦 Ukraine||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇼 Malawi||25.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||23.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||22.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇮 Burundi||22.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||21.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||21.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇬 Nigeria||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇰 Macedonia||19.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇲 Myanmar||19.4%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||18.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇱 Poland||17.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇬 Bulgaria||17.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇲 Turkmenistan||17.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||17.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇪 Montenegro||16.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇴 Angola||16.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||16.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇬 Egypt||16.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇲 Comoros||15.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan||15.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇴 Romania||15.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇾 Belarus||15.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||15.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||15.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||14.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇳 Mongolia||14.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||14.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇿 Azerbaijan||13.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇫 Afghanistan||13.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇲 Gambia||13.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||13.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇼 Botswana||13.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇳 Senegal||13.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇱 Chile||12.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇽🇰 Kosovo||12.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇺 Russia||12.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇳 Guinea||12.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||12.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇿 Uzbekistan||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇬 Congo||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇮 Nicaragua||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||12.1%||Jun 2022|
|🇲🇺 Mauritius||11.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇿 Mozambique||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇹 Italy||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇱 Mali||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇷 Mauritania||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||11.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇹 Austria||11.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||10.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇬 Uganda||10.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||10.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇪 Germany||10.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇳 Honduras||10.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇯🇲 Jamaica||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇮 Slovenia||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇹 Guatemala||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇿🇲 Zambia||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇪 Kenya||9.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇲 Armenia||9.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||9.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇬 Madagascar||9.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇸 Lesotho||9.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇳 Tunisia||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇷 Greece||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||9.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇩 Bangladesh||8.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇾 Cyprus||8.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇴 Faroe Islands||8.8%||Sep 2022|
|🇩🇿 Algeria||8.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇵 Nepal||8.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||8.5%||Aug 2022|
|🇲🇽 Mexico||8.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau||8.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇦🇱 Albania||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇧 Barbados||8.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇮 Finland||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇦 Morocco||8.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇪 Peru||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇻 Cape Verde||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||8.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇱 East Timor||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇬 Togo||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇭 Philippines||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇲 Cameroon||7.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇴 Norway||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇹 Malta||7.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇺 Australia||7.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇸 Spain||7.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇩 Chad||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇿 Belize||7.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇦 Namibia||7.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇼 Aruba||7.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇨🇦 Canada||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇺 Luxembourg||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇴 Somalia||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇳 India||6.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||6.8%||Jun 2022|
|🇬🇾 Guyana||6.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇷 Liberia||6.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇷 Brazil||6.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇸 Bahamas||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇨🇮 Ivory Coast||6.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇷 France||6.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇯 Djibouti||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Bhutan||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Qatar||6.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||6.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇿 Swaziland||5.8%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇩 Indonesia||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇯 Tajikistan||5.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||5.5%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇭 Cambodia||5.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇮🇶 Iraq||5.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇴 Jordan||5.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇯 Fiji||5.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇮🇱 Israel||5.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇨 New Caledonia||5.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇿 Tanzania||4.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇲 Bermuda||4.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇪🇷 Eritrea||4.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇲🇾 Malaysia||4.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||4.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇸 Palestine||4.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇳 Brunei||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇾 Libya||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇳 Vietnam||4.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||4.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇭 Bahrain||4.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇵 Japan||3.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇪 Niger||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇻 Maldives||3.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇦 Gabon||3.0%||Jul 2022|
|🇱🇮 Liechtenstein||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇭 Switzerland||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇨 Seychelles||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||2.9%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇴 Bolivia||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇼 Taiwan||2.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||2.7%||Dec 2021|
|🇻🇺 Vanuatu||2.7%||Mar 2022|
|🇴🇲 Oman||2.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇯 Benin||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇳 China||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇦 Panama||1.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇴 Macau||1.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||-2.5%||Aug 2022|
*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.
As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.
Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.
The Role of Energy Prices
Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.
Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.
Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.
Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.
“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.
-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA
Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?
If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.
Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.
If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.
It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.
While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.
Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria
We introduce the visual diversity of bacteria and illustrate how they are categorized by appearance—from a single cell to an entire colony.
Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria
Bacteria are amazing.
They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.
They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.
And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.
The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.
A Life of Culture
Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.
Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea and the Eukarya.
Archaea are very similar to bacteria, but have different contents making up their cell walls.
Eukarya largely consists of complex, multicellular life, like fungi, plants, and animals. Bacteria are similar to its single-celled members because all bacteria are also unicellular. However, while all Eukarya have nuclear membranes that store genetic material, bacteria do not.
Bacteria have their genetic material free-floating within their cellular bodies. This impacts how their genes are encoded, how proteins are synthesized, and how they reproduce. For example, bacteria do not reproduce sexually. Instead, they reproduce on their own.
Bacteria undergo a process called binary fission, where any one cell divides into two identical cells, and so on. Fission occurs quickly. In minutes, populations can double rapidly, eventually forming a community of genetically identical microbes called a colony.
Colonies can be visible to the human eye and can take on a variety of different shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and behaviors. You might be familiar with some of these:
Superstars of a Tiny World
The following are some interesting bacterial species, some of which you may be familiar with:
This species is unusually large, ranging from 200-700 micrometers in length. They are also incredible picky, living only within the guts of sturgeon, a type of large fish.
D. radiodurans is a coccus-shaped species that can withstand 1,500 times the dose of radiation that a human can.
Despite being known famously for poisoning food and agriculture spaces from time to time, not all E.coli species are dangerous.
Down in the depths of a South African gold mine, this species thrives without oxygen, sunlight, or friends—it is the only living species in its ecosystem. It survives eating minerals in the surrounding rock.
Known for causing stomach ulcers, this spiral-shaped species has also been associated with many cancers that impact the lymphoid tissue.
Most living things cease to survive in cold temperatures, but P. halocryophillus thrives in permafrost in the High Arctic where temperatures can drop below -25°C/-12°F.
‘Bact’ to the Future
Despite their microscopic size, the contributions bacteria make to our daily lives are enormous. Researchers everyday are using them to study new environments, create new drug therapies, and even build new materials.
Scientists can profile the diversity of species living in a habitat by extracting DNA from an environmental sample. Known as metagenomics, this field of genetics commonly studies bacterial populations.
In oxygen-free habitats, bacteria continuously find alternative sources of energy. Some have even evolved to eat plastic or metal that have been discarded in the ocean.
The healthcare industry uses bacteria to help create antibiotics, vaccines, and other metabolic products. They also play a major role in a new line of self-building materials, which include “self-healing” concrete and “living bricks”.
Those are just a few of the many examples in which bacteria impact our daily lives. Although they are invisible, without them, our world would undoubtedly look like a much different place.
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