Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Changing At Rapid Scale, New Study Reveals

First Posted: May 12, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

The Earth's magnetic field is changing; it is becoming weaker over some parts of the globe and becoming stronger over others, according to a new study. The magnetic field plays the role of a shield that protects the planet from cosmic radiation and harsh solar winds.

The changes are usually invisible but they have major implications as per a report published by BBC. The fluctuation is already moving the position of the magnetic North Pole, and could further control how space events like solar storms can impact Earth in the future. However, at the moment, scientists have been able to understand what is causing the shift, and predict what could happen in the future.

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched three satellites, collectively called Swarm, in 2013 to measure the magnetic signals coming from the Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere, oceans, crust, mantle and core. On the basis of the data collected, researchers from ESA have revealed that magnetic field has become weaker by 3.5 percent over the top of North America since 1999; however in the same time frame it has become stronger by about two percent over Asia. The South Atlantic Anomaly, the feeblest part of the magnetic field, has gradually moved towards the west over the past seven years, apart from weakening by two percent. The North Pole too is shifting eastwards towards Asia.

This is the first study that shows the magnetic field of the Earth is changing; it is always in a flux. Over the past decades, it has become clear that the invisible bubble that protects our planet from outer space's harsh conditions is getting weaker. As per the approximate estimates by scientists, Earth's magnetic field is getting weaker by around 10 times than previously thought, which implies that the planet is losing around five percent of its strength every 10 years.

Researchers suggest that the magnetic poles are gearing up to flip, a phenomena that takes place once every 100,000 years. However, according to experts, there is no reason to worry on hearing about such a possibility because until date there has been no proof that life on Earth suffered in the past, when such an event took place. The consequence, of the phenomena, could simply mean that a compass could eventually point south in place of north.

The reason for the changes, after analyzing Swarm reports, can be pinpointed to the molten that forms the outer core of our planet, 3,000 kilometers below the ground. The swirling and spinning liquid iron acts like the dynamo of a bicycle that generates electrical currents that control the Earth's electromagnetic field. Though it has been long hypothesized that the dynamo core caused changes in the magnetic field, this is the first time researchers have actually been able to study the phenomena due to Swarm.

"Swarm data are now enabling us to map detailed changes in Earth's magnetic field, not just at Earth's surface but also down at the edge of its source region in the core," said Chris Finlay from ESA. "Unexpectedly, we are finding rapid localized field changes that seem to be a result of accelerations of liquid metal flowing within the core." The study has still not been peer reviewed, however if it is confirmed to be true then it can help researchers predict what is going to happen next and how to deal with eventualities like solar storms.

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