Earth’s poles will flip, so what then?

The magnetic field that protects our planet from solar and galactic radiation, the dangerous rays that can harm things on our planet, is generated in the outer core. As energy travels through that core it creates an electrical current, which in turn creates a magnetic shield that goes far out into space.

By   |  Published: 30th Aug 2020  5:54 pm

Many facets of our lives depend on the Earth’s magnetic field, anchored by the North and South poles, from the electrical grid that powers our computers to the satellites that let us watch TV. Animals navigate with it.

In the 1980s, through scientists started get these little glimpses of what was happening to the magnetic shield. What they have found is phenomenally surprising. There is this absolutely tortured bunch of magnetic fields within the core. You’ve got the two pole magnetic fields that protect our planet, the North and South poles, but within this molten core there are all these factions, like the battle of the Titans, that are trying to topple the dipole. If they succeed, which they’ve done hundreds of times in the planet’s history, then the North and South poles will switch places.

All plants and animals respond to the magnetic field of our planet.

Our electronic grids are very tightly interconnected, so a failure in one part of it can cascade across the planet. There was a near miss in 2012 from an absolute super-storm that the sun let loose. This massive, once-in-150-years event happened to be released when the sun was facing away from our Earth. Had that happened a week or two earlier, we would have been sent back to the Victorian age in terms of our electrical systems.

Scientists know that the Earth’s poles have reversed hundreds of times. It’s a dynamic system inside the outer core and it has to reverse at times because that’s just part of the way it works. That had happened 780,000 years ago.

The core is becoming increasingly volatile. The North magnetic pole is absolutely running through the Northern Hemisphere at 55 km a year to the northwest. That’s an indicator that something unusual is happening inside the core. Scientsits say that the dipole is weakening fairly dramatically. Satellite imagery shows that part of the magnetic field has already reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. This is something called the South Atlantic Anomaly. The reversed flux patch, as scientists call it, is moving to the West and that it’s doubled in size in the last 60 years, so it now covers about 20 percent of the planet’s surface.

The consequences for life on Earth will be potentially devastating if poles are reversed.

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