Are the recent Earthquakes caused by magnetic pole shift?

Could the movment of the magnetic North Pole have caused the earthquake last Friday in Japan? Question posed by Juan.

In short, no.

The Earth's magnetic field is not and has never been a static, unmoving thing. It's as dynamic as any other process on Earth and as such is constantly changing. Part of this is the wandering North Pole* 'issue' that so many people are getting het up about at the moment.

The Earth's changing magnetic field is, all of a sudden, being blamed for such diverse occurrences as earthquakes, unusual animal deaths and even increasingly erratic behaviour of groups of human beings. The thing is, there's no proof that any of these have increased outside of normal statistical bounds: there are no more Earthquakes at the moment than there have been in the past; no more animal deaths. What's changed is that due to the march of technology, these things are being reported more often, more consistently and more widely than ever before: they have always happened, but the news hasn't always reached us. It just feels like they're happening more often because more of the news is reaching us.

Anyway; back to the magnetic pole shift and Earthquakes: The North magnetic pole is wandering, just like it always has, and it's moving a bit quicker and a bit further than it has done in the recorded past. You have to bear in mind, though, that 'recorded past' is only about 100 years or so- pitifully short compared to the billions of years that it has been in operation. However, scientists in the relevant fields are pretty sure that the current increase in speed of the North Pole's movement is not unusual in the bigger picture, and fully expect it to slow down again and change direction at some point in the future.

Even though we haven't been monitoring the Earth's magnetic field for very long, we can pick up some clues about its habits in the past from looking at rocks. In fact, some evidence related to the Earth's magnetic field provided some pretty convincing evidence for the theory of tectonic shift, but that's for another post...

In the rock record of Earth, it is observable that the geomagnetic field has done some pretty wild things in the past, including flipping completely: i.e., North and South swap over. This sounds a bit scary and possibly violent, but it isn't: the only difference you'd notice is that your compass pointed the opposite direction. The important thing, with regards to this post, is that along with these records of magnetic field changes far, far greater than anything we're experiencing now, there is absolutely no convincing evidence to be found that these shifts had any kind of effect on either tectonic activity (earthquakes, volcanoes and the like) or the ability of animals at the time to stay alive (i.e. mass extinctions, etc).

So to sum up: No, I don't think that the Earth's changing magnetic field had anything to do with Japan's earthquake on Friday, and I haven't heard from any credible scientists or organisations that do.

To anyone who has been affected by the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami, you have my best wishes and hopes that your families and friends are safe.

To anyone else, you can donate to the British Red Cross's Japan Tsunami appeal here

* The South magnetic Pole is also wandering, but I don't see so much talk of this. Not sure why that is.


  1. Via Facebook, a seismologist friend of mine posted this:

    "Haha, I can't get the whole story on my phone but nice to see you start with no. We have one or two mag 8 to 9 earthquakes a year. These recent ones are not out of the norm, it's just a shame that the one on Friday was only about 10km deep and so it caused a lot of damage, and of course, caused the terrible tsunami. Plates around that area are known as the 'ring of fire' because they are very seismically active."


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