Tampa runway change fuels fears of Armageddon

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day with the news that Tampa Airport has changed the designation of one of its runways because the Earth's magnetic pole has shifted slightly.

Runway designations correspond to their angles to the Earth's magnetic axis. Tampa's main runway had been designated 18R/36L because of its alignment - a 180 degree approach from the North and 360 degrees from the south. But the slight shift in the pole has meant that it now needs to be redesignated 19R/1L.

The change isn't unexpected, or even unusual. It's long been known that the magnetic poles wander around a little. James Ross first located the northern magnetic pole in 1831; by the time Roald Amundsen found it again it had shifted by over 30 miles.

Indeed, runway designations often have to be altered as a consequence: London's Stansted Airport had to do it in 2009, for example.

Nevertheless, the news has been seized on with glee by those who believe that the world is coming to an end any day now.

"At the risk of sounding like a moran [sic], is this why the sun is setting in a more south westerly direction as opposed to due west?" asks one poster on the Godlike Productions forum.

At The Truth Behind the Scenes, there's jubilation that the government's evil conspiracy is no longer working: "Finally, something that the government cannot debunk, cover up, twist, or spin! Whatever happens to us, denizens of the planet Earth, the truth will out!"

We won't remember the truth for long, though, according to a post on DiscloseTV.

"We're talking about having our brain waves scrambled for at least a short period of time by a weakened terrestrial magnetic field and God only knows what a magnetic pole flip will do to our brain wiring! We are looking at a global memory wipe," the author explains.

"When all is said and done, should you survive, you will likely come to your senses to find you have no memory of anything: your name, how to speak, read, or write your language, what that funny box with a clear front is that is sitting in front of you, etc."

At some point in the future - and possibly very soon - the magnetic poles will flip over and reverse completely. The last time this happened was about 780,000 years ago, and many scientists believe we're due for another switch pretty soon - in geological terms, that is, rather than by next Tuesday.

When it happens, the process will take several thousand years, and could involve totally new magnetic poles popping up in the most unlikely places.

But, says David Morrison, a NASA senior scientist, "As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn't cause any harm to life on Earth."

He adds: "There is no reason to expect a reversal of magnetic polarity any time soon, or to anticipate any bad effects on life when it does eventually happen. A sudden shift in rotational pole with disastrous consequences is impossible. Also, none of this has anything to do with the galactic equator or any of the other nonsense about 2012 that appears on these internet conspiracy theory sites."

Nevertheless, for many, a little change in the signage around a single airport is a sign that the end of the world is nigh. "You'd think by reading this article that it was a normal occurence," says one outraged poster on Godlike Productions.

It is, sweetheart, it is.