The Earth can change its magnetic poles. It has happened hundreds of thousands of years ago, and geophysicists believe that it should happen again – and sooner than they expected.
The liquid metal from our planet’s core are the ones that give the planet the magnetic field, and when the liquid starts changing the direction of the flow, it also affects the magnetic field.
Chinese researchers have published a study on Tuesday, showing that the magnetic poles of our planet should suffer an imminent shift. Geophysicists believed that this event would happen in a few hundred years, but according to new evidence, it can happen almost 30 times faster than previous estimations. The last geomagnetic switch occurred at the beginning of the last ice age, and it only took 144 years to complete.
Analyzing stalagmites in limestone caves – some which were still magnetized and could help scientists determine their age, researchers deduced how fast the Earth’s magnetic poles shifted in the past.
Will The Imminent Geomagnetic Shift Threaten Humanity?
First, researchers presented the proof that the polar flip could happen sooner than believed. Compared to 175 years ago, the magnetic field is 10% weaker, meaning that they’re more likely to start shifting.
The magnetic poles started to move quickly. Now, the northern pole is to the North of Canada, under the arctic ice, but it began to move towards Siberia by about 50 km per year.
Last but not least, the shift in Earth’s magnetic field was bound to happen, since it occurs every 200,000 – 300,000 and the last reversal was almost 780,000 years ago.
So far, in between the shifts, the Earth’s magnetic poles have gone through “excursions,” which means that they temporarily drift to reversal.
Jürgen Matzka (Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, Potsdam) explains that “such excursions are ten times more frequent” and are initially “indistinguishable from real pole jumps.”
And to finally answer the question on the possible threat posed to humanity, experts said we shouldn’t worry about it. It won’t affect humans, but the satellites that orbit the planet will have a bad time because they would be exposed to the radiation coming from the Sun.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.