Story 2014-10-22 2TK3 Earth's Magnetic Field Could Reverse Within a Lifetime

Earth's Magnetic Field Could Reverse Within a Lifetime

in science on (#2TK3)
story imageAround 800,000 years ago, magnetic north hovered over Antarctica and the geographic north pole was magnetic south. The poles have flipped several times throughout Earth's history. Scientists have estimated that a flip cycle starts with the magnetic field weakening over the span of a few thousand years, then the poles flip and the field springs back up to full strength again. However, a new study shows that the last time the Earth's poles flipped, it only took 100 years for the reversal to happen.

The Earth's magnetic field is in a weakening stage right now. Data collected this summer by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite suggests the field is weakening 10 times faster than scientists originally thought. They predicted a flip could come within the next couple thousand years. It turns out that might be a very liberal estimate, scientists now say.

A weakening magnetic field could interrupt power grids and radio communication, and douse the planet in unusually high levels of radiation. While a pole flip could cause a few technical issues, there's no need to panic. Scientists have combed the geological timeline for any evidence of catastrophes that might be related to a magnetic flip; they haven't found any. No direct evidence of past catastrophes triggered by a magnetic flip.
Reply 6 comments

How strong will power grids be affected? (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-22 15:56 (#2TK4)

A weakening magnetic field could interrupt power grids and radio communication,
This does not sound good. I saw once a documentation what might happen when a huge EMP destroys the infrastructure of the modern western world. In the documentation one possible source of such an EMP was an extra-terrestrial gamma-ray burst. So compared to such an event, how does the effects measure to the weakening magnetic field? Might be that such a polarity change never before caused a serious catastrophe. Before the mid-20th century it most likely would not have been much of a problem either. However, the predicted gamma-ray burst EMP scenarios for today's tech/power dependencies came quite close to an extinction level event for humans.

Re: How strong will power grids be affected? (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-22 16:39 (#2TK6)

Probably not extinction, but It wouldn't be good. If a good chunk of our modern electrical grid/ telecom infrastructure was destroyed some deaths would occur. Its really tough to predict how many. The increase in radiation would also likely spike cancer rates, leading to more deaths. But probably not mass die offs of the human race.

Re: How strong will power grids be affected? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-22 16:56 (#2TK9)

Not directly, but looting and riots would be likely. Fires in urban areas would be very dangerous. And medical care would be reduced to some pretty poor levels.

Planet X (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-23 00:57 (#2TKT)

Wait.. isn't this just that Planet X conspiracy theory all over again?

Re: Planet X (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-23 02:52 (#2TM3)

Hadn't heard that one (Where's Robert Stack when you need him?). "Planet X" typically refers to Pluto and other dwarf-planets.

According to Wikipedia, the conspiracy theory involves the Earth PHYSICALLY flipping up-side-down, nothing to do with magnetic poles:

"(a physical pole shift, with the Earth's pole physically moving, rather than a geomagnetic reversal)"

Fortunately, this was predicted to happen in 2003, so those Zetas have quite the skill for causing cataclysms that nobody notices. I certainly didn't know I was upside-down.

Re: Planet X (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-23 15:55 (#2TMJ)

Yeah, Wow. I hadn't heard of that conspiracy before. Their website is still being updated, with new newsletters. I looked at the most recent one. Nothing appears to be immediate. There are a lot of fears of other groups that know what they know and are plotting to destroy them once the big pole shift happens. Maybe they should try not posting what they know about the pole flip, to keep a step a head of the others. It takes a special kind of delusion to keep it up this long after so many missed predictions.