The Mayan Apocalypse of 2012: Part 4 – Polar Shifts & Super Volcanoes

Heard the world’s going to end in 2012?

This is post number 4, this time I’ll be looking at some of the predicted geological causes of destruction; super volcanoes, a polar shift and crustal displacement.

In the first post I looked at the Mayan roots of the prophecy, and found that there weren’t any, the 2012 myth is the produce of modern Western culture, not ancient Mayan culture. In post 2 I looked at Nibiru and cosmic alignments, and in post 3 I looked at solar storms and impacts from space.

So is a polar shift going to cause a crustal displacement, unleashing enormous earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and destroying our civilization? Read on…

Polar shift & crustal displacement:

One of the most popular 2012 stories is that the Earth will undergo a polar shift (sometimes also called a polar reversal) on December the 21st 2012, where the continents of the Earth will suddenly move to new positions, as the polar landmasses become unstable and shift towards the equator. Such a dramatic movement of the continents is predicted to unleash massive earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, and will kill billions of people. It’s basically what happens in the 2012 film.

This theory is actually quite hard to write about because there are so many different versions of it and many use the same words to mean quite different things, and various bits and pieces of science are included, almost all of which is completely incorrect. This theory is a total mess.

Some versions of the theory state that the polar shift will be caused by a sudden reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles, initiated by an intense solar storm, while another version of the story is that ice gathering on the poles will increase their weight, destabilising them, at which point the Earth’s rotation will cause the poles to be pulled to the equator, rearranging all of the continents.

Like this

These ideas do have a basis in science, even with a famous scientific supporter, but everything I’ve mentioned above, and just about everything I’ve read online, has got the science completely wrong.

The idea of a polar shift was first seriously suggested by Charles Hapgood in his book The Earth’s Shifting Crust in 1958. Over the last 200 years or so, geologists uncovered more and more evidence that the continents have been in different locations throughout history and a range of different hypothesis were suggested to explain this. Hapgood suggested that the continents could quickly and dramatically move via a polar shift. Albert Einstein even supported his idea, here’s a quote from Albert:

In a polar region there is a continual deposition of ice, which is not symmetrically distributed about the pole. The Earth’s rotation acts on these unsymmetrically deposited masses [of ice], and produces centrifugal momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the Earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced in this way will, when it has reached a certain point, produce a movement of the Earth’s crust over the rest of the Earth’s body, and this will displace the polar regions toward the equator.

However the polar shift theory was 100% wrong. As more evidence was uncovered, geologists realised that the continents are constantly, but very slowly, moving across the face of the Earth via a mechanism called plate tectonics, this is the idea that the crust of the Earth is made up of segments, called tectonic plates, which are constantly moving. It’s this slow movement of the plates that creates the occasional earthquake, and even creates most volcanoes. Geologists have shown that the continents cannot detach and move quickly, and that the polar shift idea is completely impossible.

Plate tectonics, what actually happens

Crustal displacement via a polar shift is a dead scientific idea, replaced by plate tectonics. Yes Einstein believed in crustal displacement, but Einstein died before the best evidence for plate tectonics was found (seafloor spreading in 1962). I’m sure if he had still been alive in 1962 he would have understood that plate tectonics was the scientific truth. Even if he didn’t, although Einstein was a genius in many ways, he was a physicist, not a geologist, we have no idea how much geological science he actually knew, so Einstein should not be seen as an authority in crustal processes, no matter how magnificent he was at physics.

A genius, a magnificent physicist, not a great geologist though

It gets worse, although Charles Hapgood was an academic he wasn’t a geologist, he wasn’t even a scientist, he was primarily a historian. He didn’t understand enough geology to propose a sensible theory of continental movement; it would be like Lady Ga Ga giving you complex economic forecasts.

The polar shift idea is usually also mixed up with an idea called a polar reversal, in which the Earth’s magnetic poles suddenly reverse. Again this is impossible, but I think this idea is taken from a real scientific concept, called a geomagnetic reversal. This is the process by which the Earth’s magnetic poles do move, but no continental mass, no islands, in fact no rock will move. The Earth is like a giant magnetic, with a different charge at each pole, and throughout history these areas of charge have moved and reversed, with magnetic North switching to magnetic South, and vica versa. But this happens deep in the Earth’s outer core, over two thousand kilometres below us, it has no effect on the locations of the continents.

Also, a geomagnetic reversal happens extremely slowly, taking on average around 200,000 years, and the reversals have had no impact on life on Earth, as indicated by the fossil record. Evidence even suggests that a geomagnetic reversal is happening right now, but you won’t notice, as it happens incredibly slowly; over the average human life-span the amount of movement will be absolutely tiny.

A polar shift is impossible, and a geomagnetic reversal is nothing to worry about.

Super volcanoes:

Unlike the above ideas, super volcanoes are real. A super volcano is a volcano that is capable of producing an absolutely monumental eruption, much larger than any eruption witnessed in recorded human history, with over a thousand cubed km of material ejected, up to heights of 25 km into the atmosphere. Volcanologists categorise such an eruption as a VEI 8; level 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. The Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 was classified as a VEI 5 eruption, so a super volcano eruption would be roughly a thousand times more powerful.

Like this, times 1000

Volcanologists know of 6 potential super volcanoes on Earth; Long Valley and Valles, in the USA, Toba in Indonesia, Taupo in New Zealand, Aira in Japan, and probably the most famous being Yelllowstone Park, also in the USA. For many years geologists new that Yellowstone was a volcanic area, but were puzzled because no one could actually find the volcano. Then in the 1960s a geologist called Bob Christiansen solved the problem when NASA sent him a photograph. NASA had surveyed Yellowstone Park from space, and as an after though sent a copy of one of the photographs to Christiansen, on seeing it he quickly realised that Yellowstone Park itself was the volcanic crater, the entire park was in the volcanoes caldera, which was roughly 55 by 72 km wide. Pretty big.

Yellowstone Park, its pretty much all volcano

A super volcano eruption would be bad news for humanity. Anybody living within a few hundred kilometres of such an eruption would likely be hit by a devastating shockwave, then pyroclastic flows, and then would be bombarded by falling fragments of rock called lava bombs. Volcanic ash would then fall over a much wider area, blanketing plants, killing vegetation and animals. If Yellowstone erupted, ash could cover large areas of the United States, destroying farming and the American food supply. Even worse though, ash erupted high into the Earth’s atmosphere would be carried across the globe and could remain in the atmosphere for months to years, blocking out sunlight and potentially killing many plants on the Earth’s surface, limiting the world’s food production.

Volcanic winter, this is a summer’s day

I’m sure such an eruption wouldn’t cause our extinction, but it would seriously damage our civilization by temporarily reducing the planet’s ability to produce food. This could lead to food wars, mass starvations and cause a massive interruption in human society.

I’ve seen a few references to Yellowstone in 2012 predictions, but I’m quite surprised it hasn’t featured more, as many people mistakenly believe it’s overdue for its next eruption. We know that the Yellowstone volcano has erupted 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, so roughly once every 800,000 to 660,000 years, prompting some people to claim that its overdue for its next eruption.

However, there is no reason to get worried. Yes, if Yellowstone erupted it could be catastrophic, but it may not erupt for hundreds of thousands of years, maybe not even for millions. Volcanoes are not like trains, they don’t run to a schedule, just because Yellowstone hasn’t erupted for 640,000 years doesn’t mean its more likely to erupt today, or in 2012. Also, Yellowstone is closely observed by the USGS and has shown no recent signs of becoming any more active than usual. If Yellowstone were approaching an eruption we would likely see tens of years of dramatically increased activity, but we haven’t. Yellowstone, and no other super volcanoes are expected to erupt anytime soon.

I realise that this post could be a bit confusing, particularly as the polar shift idea include some real, but twisted scientific theory, so here’s a quick summary:

1. A polar shift is impossible; it’s a dead scientific idea, continents move very slowly as explained by the theory of plate tectonics.

2. Geomagnetic pole reversals do occur, but they take hundreds of thousands of years to complete, do not affect the position of the continents and do not harm life on Earth.

3. Super volcanoes are real and potentially dangerous for humanity, but they are extremely rare and there is no evidence that one will erupt in 2012.

In the final post I’ll look at some reasons why the 2012 phenomena has spread through society so successfully.


1 Response to “The Mayan Apocalypse of 2012: Part 4 – Polar Shifts & Super Volcanoes”

  1. 1 Articles Trackback on March 15, 2011 at 12:04 am

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