Climate change may be causing the North Pole to drift, scientists have claimed.
Computer simulations have suggested that as glaciers and ice sheets melt, the distribution of mass on the Earth’s surface changes, in turn cause the Earth’s axis to shift and the positions of the poles to shift.
This process is nothing new. However, scientists found that in 2005, the North Poles drift altered abruptly. The pole changed from its southwards course and began moving eastwards, by about 1.2 metres in the last eight years.
Researchers from the University of Texas used data collected by a specialised NASA satellite to discover that the redistribution of mass caused by changing sea levels, due to the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, correlated perfectly with the pole’s change in course.
“Ice melting and sea level change can explain 90% of the [eastward shift]”, says Jianli Chen, senior research scientist at the University of Texas.
“The driving force for the sudden change is climate change.”
The researchers identified Greenland’s melting ice sheets to be the biggest contributor. In August, Greenland experienced its highest temperature since records began.
Over three-quarters of the country is covered by the only ice sheet that exists outside of Antarctica. Scientists have calculated that if the annual average temperature in Greenland increases by 3C (5.4F), its ice sheet will begin to melt at an abnormal and potentially catastrophic rate.
Chen’s team added that this discovery will provide scientists with a new way to accurately measure the extent of ice sheet melting by tracing the movements of the pole.