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Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Weakening

Changes show that Earth’s magnetic field is changing. Shades of red indicate areas where it is strengthening, and shades of blue areas that are weakening. Credit: ESA/DTU

It is not clear why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip.

Such a flip is not instantaneous, and would take many hundred if not a few thousand years. Data suggests: magnetic north is moving toward Siberia.

Earth’s magnetic field acts like an invisible bubble, shielding the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation that spews from the sun in the form of solar winds.  The field exists because of a giant ball of iron at Earth’s core, surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core’s temperature and Earth’s rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines.

Some areas of the magnetic field strengthen while others weaken beacuse of the movement of the molten metal. When the boiling in one area of the outer core slows down, fewer currents of charged particles are released, causing the magnetic field over the surface to weaken.

Magnetic north shifts once every few hundred thousand years, such that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, it was estimated that the field was weakening about 5 percent per century. New data reveals the field is actually weakening at 10 times faster than thought. Now, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, new data suggests it could happen sooner.

There is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. Past polarity flips  caused no mass extinctions or  radiation damage. Power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.

Data from: Live Science

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