A bill has been introduced in the House to study the "Stockman Effect," which stipulates that changes in Earth's magnetic field could impact global temperature. But no record of a Stockman Effect exists in scientific literature, since, it seems, the term was invented by the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX).
Even by congressional standards, it requires a unique level of hubris to name a scientific theory after oneself. But this is Stockman's last term in office, and the National Journal speculates that he is trying to cement his legacy, since — unlike legislators such as Sam Rayburn and John McCain — he never got a building or a law bearing his name.
The Stockman Effect Act calls upon the director of the National Science Foundation to commission a study on the extent to which changes in the weather can be attributed to natural shifts in the Earth's magnetic fields, noting that, "There is a possibility that the reason Mars lost its atmosphere was because of the loss of its magnetic field."
As the National Journal reports:
Stockman is a noted skeptic of man-made climate change; he once wore a blindfold to a meeting in Denmark to protest climate science. He also made waves at a hearing last month when he questioned White House science adviser John Holdren on why "global wobbling" wasn't incorporated into models of global warming, since scientists had linked changes in the Earth's tilt and orbit to ending the ice age. Holdren explained that wobbling happens on scales of tens of thousands of years and that, in fact, would be contributing to cooling at this stage.
The "wobbling" that Stockman mentioned in the hearing is separate from the Earth's magnetic polarity. According to data from the European Space Agency's Swarm satellite array, the Earth's magnetic field is weakening, with trouble spots over the southern Indian Ocean. That's a possible indication that the Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to shift. An October study from the University of California, Berkeley found that such a shift happened 786,000 years ago for unclear reasons, and warns that such a reversal could affect the electrical grid and allow in more energetic particles from cosmic rays and the sun, which are currently repelled by the field.
But scientists say that the long-term changes in the magnetic field make it unlikely that it's causing the rapid warming. Bob McPherron, a professor of space physics at the University of California Los Angeles, said the possible link was "very tenuous" and that most of the science behind it is not well understood. A 2011 NASA publication (published amid fears of an apocalypse in 2012 based on the Mayan calendar) noted that polarity reversals are "the rule, not the exception" and said that fossils from the last reversal 780,000 years ago showed no change to plant or animal life or glacial activity.