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Santa’s New Home: The North Pole is Moving to Russia

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Magnetic north pole moving map

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.”

Mercator's North Pole

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:

magnetic north pole moving chart

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.

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Politics

How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?

Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point since Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

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How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?

Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point in six years.

Gallup began its survey on media trust in 1972, repeating it in 1974 and 1976. After a long period, the public opinion firm restarted the polls in 1997 and has asked Americans about their confidence level in the mass media—newspapers, TV, and radio—almost every year since then.

The above graphic illustrates Gallup’s latest poll results, conducted in September 2023.

Americans’ Trust in Mass Media, 1972-2023

Americans’ confidence in the mass media has sharply declined over the last few decades.

Trust in the mass media% Great deal/Fair amount% Not very much% None at all
197268246
197469218
197672224
1997533115
199855359
1999553411
2000513712
2001533314
2002543511
2003543511
2004443916
2005503712
2007473517
2008433521
2009453718
2010433621
2011443619
2012403921
2013443322
2014403624
2015403624
2016324127
2017412929
2018453024
2019413028
2020402733
2021362934
2022342838
2023322939

In 2016, the number of respondents trusting media outlets fell below the tally of those who didn’t trust the media at all. This is the first time that has happened in the poll’s history.

That year was marked by sharp criticism of the media from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In 2017, the use of the term ‘fake news’ rose by 365% on social media, and the term was named the word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins.

The Lack of Faith in Institutions and Social Media

Although there’s no single reason to explain the decline of trust in the traditional media, some studies point to potential drivers.

According to Michael Schudson, a sociologist and historian of the news media and a professor at the Columbia Journalism School, in the 1970s, faith in institutions like the White House or Congress began to decline, consequently impacting confidence in the media.

“That may have been a necessary corrective to a sense of complacency that had been creeping in—among the public and the news media—that allowed perhaps too much trust: we accepted President Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 spy plane, President Kennedy’s lies about the ‘missile gap,’ President Johnson’s lies about the war in Vietnam, President Nixon’s lies about Watergate,”
Michael Schudson – Columbia Journalism School

More recently, the internet and social media have significantly changed how people consume media. The rise of platforms such as X/Twitter and Facebook have also disrupted the traditional media status quo.

Partisans’ Trust in Mass Media

Historically, Democrats have expressed more confidence in the media than Republicans.

Democrats’ trust, however, has fallen 12 points over the past year to 58%, compared with 11% among Republicans and 29% among independents.

How-Much-Do-Americans-Trust-the-Media

According to Gallup, Republicans’ low confidence in the media has little room to worsen, but Democrat confidence could still deteriorate and bring the overall national reading down further.

The poll also shows that young Democrats have less confidence in the media than older Democrats, while Republicans are less varied in their views by age group.

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