State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

When North Itself Wanders

 

Earth's magnetic field lines are almost vertical near the poles. The dancing lights of the aurora borealis are the result of interactions Earth's magnetic field, atmosphere, and energetic particles from the sun. Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Earth’s magnetic field lines are almost vertical near the poles. The dancing lights of the aurora borealis are the result of interactions between Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere, and energetic particles from the sun. Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

 

I love thinking about why my compass points north.

The deep, molten-metal motions, rising

And falling … gargantuan currents of iron

Conceiving vast magnetic fields, revealed

In my hand, by a tiny, quivering red needle.

Even more deliciously disturbing:

The field has been changing; the north pole is wan-der-ing

Towards Siberia, of all places – like a fading,

Frost-bitten explorer, staggering wide curves through the snow.

 

 

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Further reading:

Satellites show magnetic field in decline, Nature

Earth’s magnetic field is fading, National Geographic

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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