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Our planet’s magnetic field is weakening

Should you be worried? Yes, most certainly. Our planet’s magnetic field is what powers our compasses, while also giving us our north and south poles. Over the past 160 years, our planet’s magnetic field has been weakening at an alarming rate. Scientists are concerned that the earth is gearing up to flip its magnetic poles like it did 780-thousand years ago.

There is presently one spot in particular that scientists are most worried about: The South Atlantic Anomaly, where the field is at its weakest. The hole stretches from Chile to Zimbabwe and is a hazardous area for satellites to travel through  because if the high levels of radiation.

More than a thousand years ago, ancient African huts were burned down adding vital new clues to the case. Fragments baked in the fires contain minerals that preserve the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field during the Iron Age. Burning clay at very high temperatures stabilizes the magnetic minerals, and when it cools from these very high temperatures, it locks in a record of the Earth’s magnetic field. These clues now link the weird weak spot in the magnetic field with an oddly dense region some 1,800 miles underneath Africa, at the boundary between Earth’s mantle and its outer core.

During the age of dinosaurs, Earth’s magnetic poles flipped about once every million years. More recently, pole reversals have happened once every 200,000 to 300,000 years or so. It’s been about 780,000 years since the last magnetic pole reversal, which suggests that one is geologically imminent.

All said, it is simply too early to say for certain whether this South Atlantic Anomaly could be ground zero for the flipping of the magnetic poles.

Auroras of the Earth’s magnetic field, dance over the planet. Image captured from the International Space Station in 2017.

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