Science

Doomsday? Earth’s magnetic poles are about to switch places with severe consequences, warn ESA

The flipping of poles can cause significant climate change accompanied by a failure in the power grids. A flip in the magnetic pole also weakens the overall magnetic field covering the Earth. This could allow the entry of harmful solar winds along with electromagnetic radiations to the surface of Earth.

Earths magnetic field

European Space Agency, in a new research, found that our planet is interchanging its magnetic poles gradually. In a term of just 200 years, the magnetic field of Earth has shown a decline by 15 percent and is gradually declining further as each day passes. Scientists have been worried whether this rapid decline could be followed by a flip which could expose us to the devastating radiations from space.

These observations have been made by the scientists at the ESA (European Space Agency). At the estimated rate of decline, the magnetic flip might occur anytime soon in the upcoming 2000 years. As per the observations, our planet’s magnetic field is shifting with the rate of 5 percent. The polar magnetic shift isn’t a new phenomenon. The same has happened many times in the history of the existence of Earth. About 780,000 years prior today, Earth saw the last magnetic pole shift, and now another on could be one the way.

Normally, a shift in the magnetic poles occurs on Earth every 2 to 3 hundred thousand years as determined by ASA. This means a total reversal of the magnetic pole of the Earth is about to arrive. This swapping is a temporary phenomenon which returns to the original after a certain period. However, the consequences of this shift could be highly devastating.

The flipping of poles can cause significant climate change accompanied by a failure in the power grids. A flip in the magnetic pole also weakens the overall magnetic field covering the Earth. This could allow the entry of harmful solar winds along with electromagnetic radiations to the surface of Earth. Contrary to the popular belief, Earth has not two but four poles. The two being North and South Pole which are geographic poles. However, the other two emerge from the core of the Earth. These poles are termed as “geomagnetic poles.” The magnetic field produced by the core based poles extends about 63.7 Million meters outside into space.

As stated by ESA, a maximum section of this field is produced by the depths that extend more than 3000km. This is caused by the molten iron movement that takes place in the outer periphery of the core. Rest of the magnetic field is generated by the space-based electric current that surrounds the Earth. A small section of magnetic contribution also comes from the rocks found in the upper zone of the lithosphere. Upon inspection of the magnetic poles by the scientists, it was estimated that the gradual shift of poles caused significant damage to the satellites present above the location near South Atlantic which allowed the entry of particles that carried charge into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

A shift in the pole can eventually bring in major devastation by letting in the harmful solar radiation along with large-scale power failure leading to economic loss. The change would also affect the satellites orbiting the planet which could harm the means of communications.

NASA in a post previously noted, “Scientists understand that Earth’s magnetic field has flipped its polarity many times over the millennia. In other words, if you were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in your hand, the needle would point to ‘south.’ This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth’s poles.”

“The N-S markings of a compass would be 180 degrees wrong if the polarity of today’s magnetic field were reversed. Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth’s destruction. But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be NO,” it further noted.

What Wikipedia says

A geomagnetic reversal is a change in a planet’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged, while geographic north and geographic south remain the same. The Earth’s field has alternated between periods of normal polarity, in which the predominant direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse polarity, in which it was the opposite. These periods are called chrons.

Interesting point to know

In a study appeared in the Geographical research letters, researchers have claimed that Earth was not dipolar in the past and it had more than two magnetic poles, in fact, it had several pairs of magnetic poles.

Earth’s magnetism is due to its core which is made of molten iron. Earth’s core was not solid from the start but it was once molten and later it started to solidify. Researchers from the Carnegie Institution of Science believe that Ancient Earth had multiple poles for some time during the transition.

Scientists wanted to test the magnetic properties of Earth when it had a molten core. For the study, researchers examined rocks that had magnetic properties since their formation. Scientists know that Earth was dipolar for nearly 4 billion years, but something happened to its dipolar nature between 0.5 and 1 billion years ago (also known as Neoproterozoic Era).

It was also found that Earth’s core was changing from molten to solid state that created havoc to magnetic field nearly a billion years ago and our planet got several pairs of magnetic poles. However, things started to settle down as the transition phase of core got over and Earth again became dipolar in nature.

“These findings could offer an explanation for the bizarre fluctuations in magnetic field direction seen in the geologic record around 600 to 700 million years ago,” Driscoll added. “And there are wider implications for such dramatic field changes.”

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Rishabh Rajvanshi

Rishabh, with six years of experience in the newspaper industry, has co-founded The TeCake in 2013. Apart from writing and editing articles on Technology at The TeCake, he also contributes to other esteemed newspapers.

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