Researchers recently discovered that a setback in Earth’s magnetic field thousands of years ago forces the planet into an environmental crisis that may have looked like a “disaster movie”
Our Earth’s magnetic field is changing, and many times over, it has flippeded when the magnetic North and South poles change places. In our world of electronic-dependency, such a setback could seriously hamper communication networks.
(Photo : Jakub Novacek)
Magnetic Field Reversal
According to the new study, the change could be more serious than we thought. Researchers have found evidence for the very first time that a polar flip could have great ecological consequences. Their research connects a magnetic field reversal about 42,000 years ago to a climate eruption on a global scale, which caused extinction and remodeled the behavior of humans.
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Magnetic Barrier From Hot Metal
Earth’s magnetosphere, which is the magnetic barrier surrounding the earth, comes from the churning of hot, fused metal around its iron core. This constantly sloshing liquid flow, according to NASA generates electricity that in turn creates magnetic field lines, which curve around the earth from pole to pole.
NASA says, the magnetic field shields earth from solar radiation like a protective bubble. On the earth’s sun-facing side, constant overflow from solar winds squashes the magnetic field, so that the field extends to a distance that is not more than 10 times earth’s radius. However, on the other side of the planet facing away from the sun, the field elongates much farther into space, forming a huge “magnetotail” that stretches beyond our moon.
As stated by NASA, marking the two spots on the planet where arcing magnetic field lines gather are the magnetic North Pole and the South Pole. But while these positions are quite stable, the poles coupled with the magnetic field itself are not fixed in place. Once in every 200,000 to 300,000 years, the field weakens enough to reverse polarity entirely. The process can take hundreds or even thousands of years or more.
(Photo : Alex Andrews)
Magnetic Molecules Tell When Reversals Occur
Alan Cooper, a lead study author and an emeritus professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Otago in New Zealand said magnetic molecules stored in volcanic deposits and other sediments tell scientists when past reversals occurred; those molecules match with the magnetic field at the time they were deposited, so they mark the location of the magnetic North Pole.
According to study, previous studies of Greenland ice cores dating to Laschamps did not show evidence of climate change. But this time around, the scientists turned their attention to another potential source of climate data which is bog-preserved kauri trees from northern New Zealand.
They cut “biscuits” from the preserved trunks and looked at changes in the radioactive form of the element, over a time that included the Laschamps reversal.
Cooper said a greatly ionized atmosphere could also have created brilliant auroras around the world and formed frequent lightning storms, making skies appear like “something related to a disaster movie.”
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