Earth’s magnetic field is changing from its position 10 times faster than expected, British and American scientists say, although they clarify that this is not something to worry about.
The magnetic field of the Earth is reversed every few hundred thousand years: in the last 20 million years has been amended 100 times. This assumes that the magnetic north becomes the magnetic south and vice versa, without changing the position of the planet.
Now, a team of researchers from the University of California at San Diego (United States) and the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) have verified that this change occurs faster than previously thought.
Past paleomagnetic studies have shown that the magnetic field could change direction up to 1 degree per year, but the latest study suggests that movements of up to 10 degrees per year are possible.
“These data could give important information about the behaviour of the deep interior of the Earth”
This is based on detailed computer simulations of the outer core made of nickel and iron some 2,800 kilometres below Earth’s surface, which controls our magnetic field and which researchers have published in the scientific journal ‘Nature Communications‘
“We have very incomplete knowledge of our magnetic field before 400 years ago,” geophysicist Chris Davies of the University of Leeds explains to Science Alert. “Because these rapid changes represent some of the most extreme behaviours of the liquid iron core, they could provide important information about the behaviour of the Earth’s deep interior.”
For this reason, the researchers simulated how the magnetic field on Earth had varied in the last 100,000 years and concluded that it varies more rapidly, up to 10 times more, than previously thought.
The Earth’s magnetic field helps us to know our location and guide us with a compass or a mobile phone and keeps us protected from the effects of the elements in space and solar radiation.
Protects us from the Sun
Thanks to the field we can only perceive the solar wind through phenomena such as the northern lights and geomagnetic storms. Without it, we would have no atmosphere, and without an atmosphere, Earth’s temperatures would vary much like those of the Moon, with minima of -153 degrees and maximums of 123.
Knowing more about how these shifts and turns occur, and at what speed, will be vital for everything from the reconfiguration of satellites to changes in radiation exposure that could result from a reversal of the field.