Conspiracy theorists blame Brazil floods on baseless ‘magnetic shift’ claim

<span>Screenshot of a post on X taken on 14 May 2024</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTEzMTU-/ a2″/><span></div>
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Screenshot of a post on X taken on 14 May 2024

The same blue checking account, which has more than 70,000 followers, has spread similar theories about extreme weather events in widely shared posts.

Heavy rainstorms in the state of Rio Grande do Sul affected nearly 400 cities and towns.

Experts link the historic deluge to climate change exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which can naturally affect precipitation levels (archived here and here).

In the wake of the floods, related conspiracy theories have flourished in the country, some of which have led to the expulsion of AFP in Portugal.

But experts told AFP that there is no link between magnetic poles and climate change, although scientists in Brazil have been studying the impact of anthropogenic warming on rainfall for years.

Against the principles of physics

“There is absolutely no scientific evidence linking global warming to shifts in the magnetic poles or a reduction in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Ingrid Cnossen (archived here), independent research fellow for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) space weather and an atmosphere team, AFP said on May 14.

A spokesperson for NASA’s Langley Research Center (archived here ) told AFP on May 13 that there is no “connection between the movement of our magnetic poles and our climate,” citing an article (archived here ) on NASA website describing the theory.

The movement (archived here) of liquid iron and nickel buried deep below the Earth’s surface generates its magnetic field (archived here) — it is that movement that causes magnetic poles to shift our planet (which is in the archive here), which flipped completely immediately at last. every 300,000 years or so. Animals that rely on the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation, such as birds or sea turtles, may be temporarily disoriented by the change.

“Although that may seem like a big deal, pole reversals are common in Earth’s geologic history” with no evidence of major changes or species extinctions contrary to the often cited “doomsday” scenarios, NASA writes in a blog post.

The transition doesn’t happen overnight either, the space agency adds, but over hundreds or thousands of years.

There is no evidence that previous magnetic field excursions have significantly affected our climate for at least the past 2.8 million years, according to NASA.

Additionally, NASA scientists note that there is no known physical mechanism that can link weather conditions on the Earth’s surface — such as atmospheric conditions — to electromagnetic currents responsible for the shifting of the poles.

<span>Comparison of satellite images of the city of Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, before and after the heavy rains that caused flooding and left dozens dead</span><span>Guillermo RIVAS PACHECO</span><span>  >Paz PIZARRO</span>AFP</span></div>
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Comparison of satellite images of the city of Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, before and after the heavy rains that caused flooding and left dozens dead


Carlos Nobre (archived here), head of Brazil’s National Institute of Science and Technology on Climate Change (INCT), listed what scientists believe is behind the recent catastrophic rains: a low pressure system has been blocked by a high pressure system in the the country’s midwest and southeast, causing cold fronts to sweep across the region even as water vapor seeping in from the Amazon contributed to historic downpours.

Global warming has made the situation worse, Nobre told AFP for a previous story, adding that “the warmer atmosphere can store much more water vapor, fueling more frequent and intense episodes of rain which leads to disasters like this.”

Convergence with climate models

Lincoln Muniz Alves (archived here), climatologist at National Institute for Space Research of Brazil (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), and lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agreed. “The tragedy in southern Brazil has a well-established cause and consensus among climate experts,” he said.

The wider implications of these weather events are linked to global climate change, he told AFP on 9 May.

“The increasing intensity and frequency of such occurrences is probably related to the rise in the temperature of the planet, although more detailed distributional studies are needed to confirm this,” he said.

<span>Aerial view of flooded rice plantations in Eldorado do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, taken on May 9, 2024</span><span>Nelson ALMEIDA</span>AFP</span> span></div>
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Aerial view of flooded rice plantations in Eldorado do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, taken on May 9, 2024


Chou Sin Chan (archived here), climate modeling researcher and IPCC lead author, told AFP on May 10 that “global and regional climate model projections of future climate have shown increasing precipitation, with confidence high, in the areas south of Brazil, Uruguay, and north of Argentina.”

The IPCC has also noted in previous reports (archived here and here) “significant increases in precipitation” observed in the region in the past.

João Paulo Brêda (archived here), an environmental engineer ​​who specializes in large-scale hydrology, told AFP on May 9 that the “exceptional event that is happening now is in line with the predictions of climate models.”

AFP has debunked other claims about extreme weather events in other regions and their connection to climate science, here and here.

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