Earth’s magnetic field is gradually shifting, and may completely flip in the next 2000 years – with potentially devastating effects.
Earth’s Magnetic Field
While the flipping of Earth’s magnetic field is concerning, it’s not much of a surprise to scientists. TechTimes reports that for the past 20 million years, we’ve seen a pole reversal roughly every 200000 to 300000 years. However, the last time we saw a full pole reversal was around 780000 years ago, according to the latest research. While 2000 years seems ages away at this point and we’ll be far gone by the time a complete flip happens, we’re already starting to see some effects based off of the existing shift in Earth’s magnetic field.
According to the European Space Agency, Earth’s poles are preparing for a shift and that could cause a major headache.
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While most are aware of the north and south geographic poles, there are two different poles that extend out of them – the geomagnetic poles of the planet. TechTimes reports that the magnetic fields originate from magnetic dipoles that are swirling magnetic currents of molten iron inside the Earth’s core. Earth’s magnetic field extends millions of meters into space and has a marked impact on the functioning of our planet.
According to the European Space Agency, “”Most of the field is generated at depths greater than 3000 km by the movement of molten iron in the outer core. The remaining 6% is partly due to electrical currents in space surrounding Earth, and partly due to magnetised rocks in the upper lithosphere — the rigid outer part of Earth, consisting of the crust and upper mantle.”
Earth’s magnetic field serves to protect our planet from the high levels of charged particles and radiation. The main reason that ultraviolet rays from the ozone layer and solar rays from the sun don’t cause significant damage by hitting us directly is due to the magnetism.
TechTimes reports that in the last 50 years, we’ve seen a shift in the North magnetic pole that has caused charge particles from the Sun and interstellar space to cause damage to satellites orbiting above the South Atlantic. While we haven’t seen any marked effects here on Earth so far, there’s potential for some serious consequences in the next couple of thousand years that are largely unavoidable.
A Bleak Future
As mentioned above, a complete pole switch in Earth’s magnetic field will not happen anytime in our lives, but when it happens in the future it has the potential to render parts of the planet completely uninhabitable – largely due to the increased radiation.
We’ve also already seen some interference with satellites from the pole switch, but those effects will only get worse as charged particles affect electrical infrastructure, spacecraft, and other aviation technology.
A total pole shift in Earth’s magnetic field could cause issues for centuries, and some scientists theorize that these periodic shifts are in some part responsible for previous mass extinction events. While this isn’t a problem for anyone living today, we could be looking at a bleak future if we don’t come up with a way to address the damaging effects of a shift in our planet’s magnetism.