After they studied dozens of ancient volcanic rocks on the Galapagos Islands a group of MIT and Columbia University researchers concluded that Earth’s magnetic field won’t flip…at least not in the next 1,000 years.
The findings are at odds with previous research that had revealed that the weakness in the geomagnetic field was an omen that that the planetary flip out was about to occur. Predicting flips in polarity is important for at least two reasons.
First, the magnetic field shields us from harmful solar radiation and cosmic rays, so if the field keeps waning during the process of flipping, which may take up to a millennium to complete, every living creature on Earth would be exposed to more radiation.
The outcomes are not yet fully understood, but researchers suspect that increased radiation exposure may lead to serious health outcomes and even genetic disorders. Some biologists believe that it may trigger even mass extinctions as it happened in the past during similar events.
The second reason of concern is that magnetic field flips may severely disrupt our satellites, power grids, mobile networks and technology in general. Some people even speculate about a post-apocalyptic scenario in a world with no technology in it. Yet such scenarios are farfetched, scientists think.
The latest study, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that there’s no reason to panic…at least not in the next 1,000 years. The findings show that even though the magnetic field is dropping fast it hasn’t reached yet the long term average. This means that the field is still unusually strong.
Scientists explained that it is not the first time our planet’s is on the course of a polar flip. Moreover, the flips are highly unpredictable because no periodicity exists on long periods of time. So, arguments that a magnetic flip is about to happen because the schedule says so are lacking any scientific basis.
But polarity switches have some predictability on the short term. Scientists argue that polar swaps are heralded by a magnetic field that is weaker than historical average. Yet, the recent research suggests that we are far from that point and the situation may persist for another 1,000 years.
The research team based their research on an analysis of volcanic rock at the equator, which is the single place on Earth where magnetic field intensity is reduced to half of what it is at the poles.
Researchers explained that the ancient rocks contain tiny fragments of magnetized iron that represents a clue to geomagnetic field’s evolution over time.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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