Maps For When The Ice Caps Melt and When The Magnetic Poles Reverse

About 2 years ago I wrote about something I called mapping the might have been; things that were planned and made it onto a map but which never came about. Now it’s time for the opposite; maps of things that haven’t yet come to be but which probably will. It’s less mapping the might have been and more mapping the will be.

The planet we live on is one giant magnet, with poles that roughly align with the geographic poles which marks the axis on which the Earth spins. We’re used to the notion that North is up at the top of the planet and South is on the other side. But what if these poles reverse? About every half a million years or so this happens and when it does, everything changes and magnetic compasses will no longer work the way we expect them to. When this does happen, maybe the map of the world that we’re so familiar with will look something like this.

upside-down-map

From examining the magnetic patterns in rock, scientists have calculated that the process of geomagnetic reversal has happened more times than you’d think, almost 20 times in the course of our planet’s history and they estimate this will happen again. But probably not for another 2000 or so years so you won’t need this map just yet.

On a shorter timescale, you might need these next maps a bit sooner. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that our planet is slowly but surely warming and the polar ice caps aren’t as big as they were. But what would the map of the world look like if all the polar ice melted? In Europe a lot of familiar cities would go the way of Atlantis; London, Venice, Amsterdam and Copenhagen would all vanish slowly under the rising seas.

europe-melted

While on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, most of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, including Boston, New York, Washington, D.C, Miami and New Orleans would also be no more.

north-america-melted

Whatever your views on the topic of climate change, these National Geographic maps are a sobering and grimly fascinating view of what might and probably will be.

Written and posted from Casa Rondelli, Doglio, Umbria, Italy (42.807114, 12.305049)

7 Comments

  • You say don’t be shy, so here goes:

    It might be interesting to have a predictive M-app that can forecast both a personal map of place based on what the latest scientific evidence shows at that particular time and what might be happening locally based on the news as a result.

    A contextual map. A forecast of effects that aren’t necessarily the water rising, but what happens locally for *you* when the water rises, or there’s too many tornadoes, or there is a fire.

    For example, in Alaska, the Polar Bears are coming closer and terrorizing small towns because they are hungry and can’t get on the ice.

    The map of that area isn’t (hey, you’re flooded) it’s (hey, you’re flooded with Polar Bears) and the Polar Bear part of your map is going to grow while the ice part is shrinking.

    In this way, the maps can be dynamic and effectual with things that are happening that are real.

    One of the problems is the abstract nature of the flooding–it doesn’t get us to really make changes as swiftly as we really should because it hasn’t happened yet.

    A map giving forecast maps containing effects of weather, might be useful in driving the points home.

  • Such a thing would be extremely interesting. But it would be far from trivial to implement. In effect, you’re proposing aggregation of some very disparate data sets (if such data sets even exist) and modelling based on personalisation of the user. That’s a massive challenge, but then again, this industry seems to thrive on those!

    • No, not personalization of the user –I know I wrote “personal” but I meant location (nearly midnight here) — just *location.*

      So if you happen to be in that part of Arctic Alaska, the news relating to climate change for that area makes the map, not personal preferences.

      Still a tall order, but shorter than doing it for people.

      • It’s really localised, personalised information then. I’d guess that whilst you can make some high level assumptions about people’s needs in an area, what’s (metaphorically) sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander. Or is that a metaphor too far?

        • It’s localized geo information that has to do with the region

          It needs lots of AI though.

          I’d really like a Polar Bear forecast or a smoke level forecast or something that is related to context of life, not abstract idea that in the future this thing will happen.

          Climate change effects are felt now.

          Even a species clock — where you are, how many species are dead, extinct, endangered in that area can be an effective map to jolt people into action.

  • mm… not sure, the magnetic north pole would flip but the geographic north pole would remain where it is ? We don’t tilt maps to follow the magnetic north pole as it varies over time..

  • No offense to NatGeo but their ice-melting maps doesn’t beat the original IMHO
    http://flood.firetree.net/
    I wonder if they used the same datasets or not however (I should read their sources)