On Earth the planet's magnetic poles line up fairly well with the geographic poles. This makes things like navigation very straightforward as all compasses point to (roughly) the north pole.

Earth's magnetic field

However there are planets where this is not the case (Uranus for example).

Uranus' magnetic field

Obviously Uranus is a gas giant but what would be the effect on an Earth-like planet if the magnetic poles were so dramatically different? As I mentioned above navigation would be a lot harder but what other effects would this have on the planet and its climate?

Image sources Earth/Uranus.

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    $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate, but related: What factors could cause a world to see “northern” lights much further down the globe? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 23 '14 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ Also, are these images yours? Otherwise, please add proper credit so we can be sure they are being used in compliance with their license. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 23 '14 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it's related - the inspiration in fact. One of the suggestions for the northern lights was to move the poles, I'm keen to know what else that would do - mess with weather, compasses etc $\endgroup$ – Liath Sep 23 '14 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ The Uranus one is public domain, the Earth one is on an academic website but there is no obvious licensing info on the page so may not be ok. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 23 '14 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB I've replaced it with a wikipedia one $\endgroup$ – Liath Sep 23 '14 at 10:23

Aside from the movement of the locus for the aurorae associated with the magnetic poles and the difficulties in using the planetary magnetic field in navigation, I don't believe that there would be a great deal of difference between, for example, A world with magnetic poles aligned with the rotational axis, and one where the magnetic poles are not so aligned.

There is ample geological evidence that the magnetic poles on Earth have flipped many times, and during this change there are likely many geomagnetic north and south poles. These events have not been associated with large-scale meteorite impacts or extinction events, so the likelihood is that aside from a period of confusion for animals that navigate by geomagnetism and a spectacular light show around the many magnetic poles, such a change has little effect.

If a pole reversal event has little effect, then permanently offset magnetic poles would have even less effect.


There wouldn't be a great deal of difference. There are only a couple of differences:


Contrary to the asker's statement, navigation would only be marginally harder on such a planet. All you would have to do is set the compass of by so many degrees. The compass point would point in a certain direction, say, northwest, and you could base your navigation off that equally well.


As Monty Wild has said, the aurora would be set around the magnetic poles, not around the geographical poles.

Basically the difference in the magnetic field would be very little. There would be a much greater difference if there were no magnetic field, but that is another question.


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