Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

the polar wanderings
Though a magnetic reversal is a major planet-wide event driven by convection in Earth’s iron core, there are no documented catastrophes associated with past reversals, despite much searching in the geologic and biologic record. Today, however, such a reversal could potentially wreak havoc with our electrical grid, generating currents that might take it down.

And since Earth’s magnetic field protects life from energetic particles from the sun and cosmic rays, both of which can cause genetic mutations, a weakening or temporary loss of the field before a permanent reversal could increase cancer rates. The danger to life would be even greater if flips were preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior.

Read more at:  Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

Paper

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Earth’s magnetic north and south poles have flip-flopped many times in our planet’s history—most recently, around 780,000 years ago. Geophysicists who study the magnetic field have long thought that the poles may be getting ready to switch again, and based on new data, it might happen earlier than anyone anticipated.

The European Space Agency’s satellite array dubbed “Swarm” revealed that Earth’s magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than previously thought, decreasing in strength about 5 percent a decade rather than 5 percent a century. A weakening magnetic field may indicate an impending reversal, which scientists predict could begin in less than 2,000 years. Magnetic north itself appears to be moving toward Siberia.


Now, a new study by a team of scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that the last magnetic reversal 786,000 years ago actually happened very quickly, in less than 100 years – roughly a human lifetime.

 

Related:  scientificamerican

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