A field snapshot in June. Reds are strong; blues are weak. The view is dominated by the core contribution. Image ESA
By Chris Carrington
The European Space Agency (ESA) is running the Swarm mission to map the Earth’s magnetic field and to note changes in its strength over time.
Data just released shows how the field generated in the planet’s liquid outer core varies in strength over the course of a few months.
Swarm’s early assessment appears to support the prevailing view that this magnetic cloak in general is weakening.
Many experts believe it heralds a flip in the poles, where north becomes south and vice versa, although it would take thousands of years to complete. That said, nobody knows how long the changes have been taking place and some scientists believe it is a continuous process and that as soon as the magnetic pole flips, the gradual march towards the next flip begins.
Early data seems to confirm that the North Pole is moving towards Siberia and that the rate of movement is accelerating. What scientists cannot agree on is how soon the poles will flip. Some believe that it could happen soon, within a decade or so, others that we are thousands of years away from such an event.
What is certain, is that whenever it does occur, it will have a profound effect. Animal and bird migratory patterns will be affected, which can have a major effect on the predatory food chain as non-migrating animals wait for the usual glut of food that fails to arrive.
Bees and butterflies would also become disorientated which could reduce pollination affecting the human food chain.
GPS navigation systems from those in your car to those on aircraft will be ineffective as they are programmed based on where the North Pole is…which will be where the South Pole is currently.
Swarm comprises three satellites that are equipped with a variety of instruments – the key ones being state-of-the-art magnetometers that measure field strength and direction.
Ozone holes are more likely to form in areas with weakness in the magnetic field and although these holes already exist over Antartica, that area has a low population concentration. A weakening field allows high level excitation of atoms increasing their size and spread, a chain reaction occurs and more ozone holes form. Ozone holes allow far more radiation from the Sun to reach the earths surface and that alone can cause a significant rise in melanoma.
One thing is for sure, pole flips are a way of life if you look at things on a geological scale. they have happened before and they will certainly happen again. The only question is how much effect will it have on a crowded planet that has come to rely so heavily on technology?
Swarm satellites in orbit
The Swarm fly high above the Earth in a configuration that offsets one satellite from a pair of spacecraft. Image ESA
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!