Conversations with Strangers: Pole shift

I’ve previously mentioned my hobby of talking to/arguing with strangers on the internet, and a while back I decided to copy and paste one of the conversations onto my blog, since it seemed wortwhile. Since then I’ve periodically added to the series when something interesting and fun comes up. So, without further ado, here is the latest installment of Conversations with Strangers, taken from the comments thread of this Huffington Post article.


So if a change in ice mass at a pole can cause the earth to sway from its position, then isn’t it possible over time that population changes could do the same thing? It that is possible, then couldn’t China and other over populated areas produced the same “balance” issue? Now, if this is possible, that could mean that Chna is a leader in carbon emissions and “Population Sway”.

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The Earth moved, but not that much!

My last blog post covered a dramatic shift in the location of the North Pole, and a change in the direction in which Earth’s axis is migrating, and the wording of the original articles, and subsequent secondary and tertiary articles has been the source of some confusion.

The 75˚ shift refers to the change in direction of polar drift, NOT change in location of the pole. It’s a big change in direction, but nowhere near the kind of change we would see if Earth’s equator suddenly ran through the Arctic and Antarctic. We probably would have felt that.


Everything is caused by global warming

No really though. It’s always been clear that the worldwide melting of glaciers and ice sheets was going to have some effect on Earth’s crust. Like some other impacts of climate change, it’s a pretty straightforward concept – the crust is a relatively thin layer of solid stuff on top of the molten goo that makes up most of the planet’s bulk, so massive chunks of ice press the layer down. Reduce the ice mass, and the crust rises up a bit.

From there it’s not much of a stretch to predict some change in seismic and volcanic activity as a result.

What had not occurred to me was that this redistribution of mass could actually result in changes in how the Earth moves through space. New research published in Science Advances (yay open access!) indicates that the loss of ice mass in Greenland and West Antarctica, coupled with a gain in ice mass in East Antarctica, has shifted the North Pole towards the UK in the last decade, a change from the direction it was moving for most of the 20th century.

This isn’t a big enough shift to cause problems, bit it is an indication of the scale of the changes that are occurring, thanks to human-caused climate change.

Hey Moses – we can split water too!

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a new catalyst for splitting water. Here’s why this is big news:

One of the great strengths of renewable energy is their consistency and predictability. Yes, wind and solar have periods when they’re not generating power (with some exceptions like certain solar thermal designs), but the sun is available for a set amount of time every day, and wind blows in predictable patterns where turbines are placed. These predictable patterns make it easy to balance the grid, and to calculate how many units are needed to meet demand.

But here’s a little secret. All sources of power are intermittent. There is no power plant, coal, nuclear, or gas, that is available 100 percent of the time. The electrical grid is built with this in mind.

A well functioning coal plant, will not be available 44 days of the year.

For nuclear, it’s 36 days, as well as 39 days for refueling every 17 months or so.

Wind power has a failure rate of only 2 percent, and units rarely go down all at once.

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