05 September, 2012

The Walkabout World: Part 1

When I saw a post about a tilted world similar to the one I've been devising for Walkabout, it gained a bit of interest.

You can find it here.

It's inspired me to do a series of posts detailing the setting of the Walkabout game. Especially since it really doesn't comment on what happens to Australia, or the changes to the Australian cities...

Here's the basic planet for Walkabout, I've posted it before.

Now for a few more specific details about the world.

How could his happen?

In Walkabout, I'm leaving the reason behind the global axial tilt a complete mystery. There was nothing humanity could have done to stop it, it was simply something that the science of the day was unprepared for. It could have been a natural phenomenon (thus explaining changes in vegetation patterns without resorting to notions like ice ages or continual constant continental drift), it could have been the result of some alien intervention on a global scale, it could have been due to the erratic shifting of the geomagnetic poles (eventually shifting so far away from the axial spin of the planet that "something dramatic" occurred). It wasn't the result of a meteor hit, because otherwise we'd have a huge shockwave, capable of inducing global tsunami effects (of course there will be smaller tsunami but we'll get to them shortly).

For the purposes of Walkabout, a "shift in the magnetic harmonics of the planet" caused the geomagnetic poles to go haywire. This was a measurable symptom, not a cause.

What are the ramifications?

  1. An electric motor works by the application of electricity to a freely magnet (better motors work off a series of carefully aligned magnets), a dynamo works in reverse by creating electricity by manually spinning the magnets.
  2. Spinning objects have a kind of gyroscopic inertia that keeps them balanced.

You can feel these two effects at work when you hold a portable hard drive with a spinning magnetic disc inside. When the drive is working, you feel a force preventing you from twisting the drive.

Now imagine that force on a global scale.

If the magnetic poles shift too far off their axis, it becomes like spinning a huge magnet off centre...electricity is generated, and forces start acting to pull the spin back into a stable pattern

The world of walkabout has suffered this kind of shock. With electricity generated throughout the earths magnetic field, generating huge fluctuating currents and bursts of electromagnetic energy as the global spin tries to correct itself with spasmodic shifts in orbital spin. A single global electromagnetic pulse would damage, but probably not destroy the majority of the world's computers and high tech circuitry. Anything not turned on would have a reasonable chance of surviving the pulse (such as back-up generators) and anything magnetically shielded would also have a good chance of surviving. But in an era of mass consumerism, where devices are made cheaply for maximum profit...and where magnetic shielding is "an expense we don't need to worry about"...well, you do the math.

We get trigger happy military types who live their lives in secretive magnetically-shielded bunkers, suddenly finding communications down and paranoid about terrorist plots...

...we'll get back to the human generated second tier effects later.    

There is stress on the crust of the planet due to the erratic changes of the axial spin. The joins between continental plates fracture in a series of seizmic events that unleash earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami (I told you we'd get back to the tsunami).

Map of seizmic hotspots (indicated in yellow)

The west coast of the Americas would be utterly devastated, so to would virtually all of Japan, New Zealand and anywhere else that is considered a geological hotspot today.

Tsunamis would devastate the coastlines, and clouds of volcanic ash would fill the sky. Many claim the effects of a global atmosphere contaminated by volcanic ash would be a volcanic winter. Let's go with that.

A seizmic event of this magnitude would project more ash into the sky than we have seen in recorded history. If the Icelandic eruption of 2010 kept Europe under a cloud of ash for over a month, Mount Pinatubo's eruption in 1991 lowered global temperatures for 2-3 years, and Krakatoa was responsible for record snowfalls...then the combined effects of a global volcanic event would be truly dramatic (from an ash perspective alone).

A spontaneous ice-age wouldn't be out of the question f temperatures plummeted by 10 degrees for a few months to a lack of light and warmth reaching the surface of the planet.

The Cassini description (linked at the beginning of this post), states:

We’re assuming that all the material is magically shifted around, so there are no massive tsunamis or earthquakes. Even so, it would definitely still be a catastrophe. For starters, the ice caps would melt long before new ones could develop, pushing the ocean up by a few hundred feet. The reshuffling of climate zones would come as a huge shock to the biosphere, leading to collapse of the food chain and eventually to mass extinctions at every level.

But under the effects of a global ice age the ice caps would melt far more slowly (even if they have been pushed toward the new equator). In fact it would be far more likely for new ice caps to develop at a rate faster than the melting of the old ones, with a reduction in the sea level by a few hundred feet until the temperatures of the planet stabilised (as theorised by concepts like the Bering Straight land bridge that allowed passage for early humanity from Asia to the Americas). Tsunamis in our version DO occur, but their effects on the coastline are short lived.

In this hypothetical situation, the ice age might last for years, decades or even centuries. For purposes of story in this setting, the cloud of dust completely blocks out the sky for a few months, gradually clears over the next few years and the resultant ice age lasts a few decades.

Next Post...the changed weather patterns of the new world.
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