Have you ever considered what would happen if you woke up one morning and all compasses were pointing in the opposite direction from the norm? This would cause geomagnetic health problems for a huge portion of the planet’s population.
Does this sound bizarre? Well, it isn’t; Earth’s magnetic field has flipped numerous times throughout history when its dipole magnetic field weakens (over the course of thousands to millions of years) and reverses direction.
It has been found, in a new study performed by a team of scientists from all over the world, that the last magnetic reversal (which occurred less than a million years ago) happened in a time span of less than a hundred years.
- How Does This Affect Humans?
It has been proven that many animals are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field, but this had never been proven for humans. However, in a 2006 review on disturbances in the geomagnetic field and cardiovascular health, it was proven that there is a link between human health and geomagnetism; especially at high latitudes. In addition, in the same year, a study done in Australia showed that there is indeed a link between geomagnetic activity and a peak in suicide rates.
- Polar Flip Could Affect Cancer Rates and Electrical Grid
There is now evidence that indicates that the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing at a rate that is 10 times faster than normal. These findings indicate that a polar reversal mat occur within a few thousand years.
A magnetic reversal is a planet-wide phenomenon that is driven by convection in the iron core of the Earth. Thankfully, there are no catastrophes that have been associated with past reversals. But, if one were to occur today, there are concerns that it could potentially wreak havoc on our electrical grid because of the currents that will be generated.
In addition, Earth’s magnetic field protects life on this planet from the Sun’s energetic particles and cosmic rays; both of of which are known to cause genetic mutations. Therefore, if the field weakens or is temporarily lost, it may cause an increase in cancer rates. If this reversal were to be preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior, then the danger to life would be even greater.
- Dating Ash Deposits from Windward Volcanoes
This new finding was made through measurements of the magnetic field alignment that was found in layers of ancient lake sediment that is now exposed in the Sulmona Basin in Italy. The sediment from this area is embedded with ash layers from the Roman volcanic province. Italian researchers were able to to measure the magnetic field directions using argon-argon dating from the ash that has accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake.
Because the sediments were deposited at a steady rate over a period lasting more than 10,000 years, it was easy to identify the date of the layer that showed magnetic reversal; approximately 785,000 years ago. This date is the most precise one to date; previously others place the polar reversal anywhere between 770,000 and 795,000 years ago. Perhaps the most incredible finding was that the reversal most likely occured in less than a century’s time. Right now scientists are unsure whether the next reversal will happen suddenly or not.
- Before The Last Magnetic Flip, Earth Had An Unstable Magnetic Field
Research from the team in Italy shows that the sudden reversal was preceded by a period of instability that lasted for well over 5,000 years. Furthermore, they were able to show that this period of instability included two intervals of low magnetic field strength that lasted for 2,000 years each. The final flip happened at the ending of the most recent interval of low field strength.
As of right now, researchers are unsure if the new findings spell trouble for our modern civilization. However, the new information will help scientists determine how and why Earth’s magnetic field reverses polarity.
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