From a climatic point of view, what if Earth went through a radical polar shift that would place the geographical pole right where the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau are? (No matter if southern or northern pole.. let's say southern).

These are some of the driest regions in the world, so I wonder if there would be enough humidity to form an ice sheet. Would that result in a polar cap with a dry area in the middle?

Note that if I’m right the opposite pole would lie somewhere offshore of Chile.

Here's a handy map i did :)


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually Antarctica is drier than Tibet... Antarctica gets an average of 166 mm of water per year, while Tibet gets around 250 mm of water per year (from 110 to 500, depending on the specific location). And yet the Antarctic is covered by 3 to 4 kilometers of ice. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes but I guess Antarctica is dry precisely because it's on the southern pole and all of its water is trapped as ice, not because of topography. What I mean is that if Antarctica was on the same latitude of Tibet it wouldn't be as dry. I guess my question could be rephrased as: what if the pole was placed on a +4500 m high plateau? $\endgroup$
    – JRover
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Are you suggesting that Earth will keep the axial tilt at about 23 degrees, or it will start spinning on its side, like Uranus? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander same tilt, same speed, same everything, but the crust has shifted such that another portion of it covers the geographic pole :) This is an actual super interesting phenomenon that has happened many times in Earth's geological history, look it up en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_polar_wander $\endgroup$
    – JRover
    Mar 27, 2018 at 20:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Here's a relevant xkcd comic about rotating Earth's continents. Basically, you're going to upend the climate everywhere; predicting exact effects is beyond our current knowledge, but it's not going to be the Earth we know. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Mar 28, 2018 at 2:50

3 Answers 3


Since it's not too different from the polar position to you had showed us.

Quoting from the article of "XKCD whatif" in question: "The climate on the rotated Earth would depend heavily on the details of ocean and atmospheric heat circulation. We'll guess at some of that, but for now, let's assume this world has extremes which are similar to ours."

Horse Latitudes

This map shows the air movement with horse latitudes with the equator provides moisture from the oceans, which then gathers into rain. Then the water from the rain maintains the tropical fertility of the area. Areas near the equator get seasonal monsoon cycles. Which would be similar to the map provided:

Hurricane Basins

the red areas show where hurricanes might occur.

In temperate zones, they have more variety in weather. They are dominated by the movement of the jet streams, fronts, and on the geography. Climates can be hard to exactly predict completely but you'll get the picture when you test it out yourself. But at least this likely the closest map I could get to the Himalayas being the north pole/south pole.

I take no credit for any of this information, I just thought I'd share it since it can help explain some things.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Stack Exchange! We have a policy about links in answers. The relevant info from the link should be spelled out in the answer itself, with the link as a source/extended reading. Could you add quotations from the link or summarize the 'take-away' of the link, such that people can still read your answer if the link were to go down? $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Sep 17, 2018 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome Idola, check out the help center and tour to get familiar with the site. Your answer is more commentary than an actual answer to the question. SE is a little different than discussion forums. Its all about specific questions with specific answers. As is stands this is more commentary than an answer to the question and may get deleted/converted into a comment. Answers should work within the framework of the question, answer the question, and provide support for the answer given. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 17, 2018 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ The XKCD link does indeed seem perfect, however you've now completely copied the XKCD whatif here which unless you have a license for it breaches the copyright. You can summarize the article without being a link only article or breaching copyright - but if you copy the entire thing that isn't good :( $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Sep 17, 2018 at 15:27

Dry-ness won't stay the same due to differing wind cycles

enter image description here

The Earth, due to its rotation, generally has three 'cells' of circulating air. The Hadley cell, Mid-latitude cell, and Polar cell. Due to the patterns of rising and falling air, these cells cause the same general climate patterns to emerge around the Earth (assisted in large part by oceanic currents). I'll describe some of the general effects briefly.

The Hadley cell generally causes wet conditions at the equator and dry conditions at 30 degrees. You can see this on each continent with the tropical rainforests near the equator and the worldwide bands of desert around 30 N and S.

The Mid-latitude cell generally features Mediterranean climates (wet winters, dry summers) on West coasts of continents at lower latitudes, but cool wet climates on West coasts at higher latitudes. Examples are Spain vs. England; Los Angeles vs. Seattle; Santiago vs. Valdivia in Chile. The East coasts of continents in the Mid-latitude cell are generally much hotter and wetter in the summer. Compare the summer conditions of San Francisco and Washington DC, or Lisbon and Seoul.

The Polar cell is generally devoid of moisture. Rainfall north of 60 degrees is generally very low; for example look at Yakutsk, Russia or Barrow, Alaska.


The polar ice caps are dry! In fact, Barrow is significantly drier than Tibet. Yet it still snows there every month of the year, and sees almost a meter of snow a year. Antarctica is drier still, and has miles of ice in places.

All in all, your poles are going to be dry, but as long as they are cold enough, they are going to develop ice caps over time.


Such a shift would dramatically change Earth's climate and ocean currents... so it's very difficult to predict if -and how fast- a new ice cap would appear.

One thing you should really think about is ocean currents. Antarctica is extremely cold because it's surrounded by cold water. The antarctic circumpolar current is a permanent cold stream around Antarctica's landmass, and it prevents hot water from reaching the land, and warming it.

In your example, such a circumpolar current should not appear. A warm current may even come from the Indian Ocean and have an impact on your new polar region. See how the Gulf Stream is warming Scandinavia...

So, there should be ice in the mountains, but it's hard to say how far it would expand, and if it will cover Taklamakan desert. It depends on the new climate this polar shift will create on Earth... A new ice age ? A new warm age ? It's up to you.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .