Every few hundred thousand years or so, the Earth’s magnetic field is reversed, changing its position: magnetic north becomes magnetic south and vice versa. According to new research published in Nature Communications, this change of position could take place 10 times faster expected.
Previous paleomagnetic studies have shown that the magnetic field could change direction up to 1 degree per year. The latest study, however, suggests that movements up to 10 degrees per year are possible. The research is based on detailed simulations of the outer core of our planet which is located approximately 2,800 kilometres below our feet.
“We have a very incomplete knowledge of our magnetic field before 400 years ago,” says geophysicist Chris Davies of the University of Leeds in the UK.”Since these rapid changes represent some of the most extreme behaviours of the liquid nucleus, they could provide important information on the behaviour of the Earth’s interior.”
The Earth’s magnetic field not only helps us to orient ourselves, but it also keeps us protected from the atmospheric effects of space and solar radiation. Knowing more about these shifts and reversals is important in several aspects: from reconfiguring satellites to managing changes in radiation exposure that could result from a reversal of our planet’s magnetic field.