Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

The Overdue Catastrophies of Earth: Magnetic Pole Reversal

A magnetic pole shift is not exactly a recent finding about our earth, but it seems to be becoming more of a concern for inhabitants in our lifetime. A shift in our magnetic poles may be closer than we think, flipping orientation.

Honestly this is news to me, and may be news to many people who are not directly in the loop of what is happening to our earth. There seems to be a lot of oversaturation of the same issues ( Climate change, I’m looking at you) and not exposure to potential imminent changes.

Reader, I invite you to ride with me on the journey to expository! Lets start from the very beginning.

What is the Earth’s Magnetic Field?

The geomagnetic field is an invisible field which extends from the earths interior at one end and connects at the other. The cause for the field is still relatively unknown, but poplar scientific consensus from geologists points to earth’s core composition of molten iron. It’s rotation somehow generates a magnetic field, much like a regular magnet does which covers the whole planet.

It is extremely necessary for the planet as it acts as a protective shield from harmful spurts of solar radiation from the sun which are directed at Earth.

When did reversal start?

Well approximately 800,000 years ago the orientation of magnetic north was situated at Antarctica, and magnetic south was located out what we now call The North Pole (As in Santa Claus), or the Arctic Circle. So it has been estimated that geomagnetic reversal of these poles has been happening every few thousand years.

We can tell this has occurred through looking at volcanic solidified sediments which contains magnetically sensitive materials. Over time with new layers being deposited, the orientation of the minerals inside each layer have changed to point towards magnetic field directions. This is how change in direction of the field is measured over time.

How does it happen?

During a flip cycle, a weakening of the magnetic field at the poles has occurred (over thousands of years), and then flips at the weakest point. This spring acts as a ‘recharge’ of sorts, bringing it back to full strength.

According to new data collected, the last reversal happened in a span of 100 years (extremely short) and the next is happening 10 times faster than the former. This was something like 786,000 years ago, the age pinpointed by sediments.

There isn’t much knowledge as to where we are currently at during the weakening cycle and if the patterns will remain uniform to the last occurrence.

Concerned? What does this mean for us?

The main concern is that the field flip will interfere with the technological interface of our earth. I know it sounds rough, but being without Wi-Fi will encourage us to make real conversations with one another.

Thorough inspection of geological timespan has been undertaken, and thus far there is no evidence to suggest there would be disaster or a catastrophe triggered of some sort.

Unlikely, but think for a moment of the trouble we’d be in if the magnetic field disappeared completely. A very crispy tan? More like a scalding burn! ….I should stock up on sunscreen…


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This entry was posted on May 11, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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