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The Earth’s magnetic field protects life on Earth, shielding it from damaging radiation and moderating our climate. The result of electrical currents generated deep within the Earth through dynamic action, the magnetosphere is a fluid force that is constantly changing in strength and orientation. The very heart of our planet is a solid inner core of mostly iron that is about the size of the moon. Surrounding this solid inner core is a second layer made primarily of an iron-nickel alloy. The disparity in temperature between the inner core and the mantle causes the Earth to become a giant magnet. Given the fluidity of the system, it stands to reason that the magnetic field is not an immovable constant, but changes in its strength, orientation and polarity. Since it was first pinpointed in 1831 by James Ross, the magnetic north pole has moved more than 600 miles, and in recent years, this change has accelerated from “an average speed of 10 km per year . Part of the natural order, over the last 20 million years, the poles have reversed, on average, every 200,000-300,000 years.
Discerned from magnetic signatures found on rocks and sediments, scientists today know that the poles routinely switch places.
It’s not a sudden flip, but a slow process, during which the field strength becomes weak, very probably the field becomes more complex and might show more than two poles for a while, and then builds up in strength and aligns in the opposite direction.
Given the field’s waning strength over the last couple of centuries, some scientists believe we are approaching another long-term flip. However, if the magnetic field were to significantly weaken, we could (potentially) be in trouble. In recent years, scientists have found evidence that magnetic pole shifts can occur very quickly, although it is not clear if they typically result in complete reversals.
In the late 1960s near the village of Laschamp in the Massif-Central in France, scientists found incomplete evidence that led them to believe an extremely rapid, short-term magnetic reversal had occurred a mere 41,000 years ago (about the time the Neanderthal disappeared from Europe). Other evidence of a rapid pole shift was discovered in 1995 in hardened lava in Steens Mountain, Oregon. Find Us On YouTube!Subscribe today to check out our free Daily Knowledge Youtube video series! Earth's magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's interior to where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The North and South magnetic poles wander widely, but sufficiently slowly for ordinary compasses to remain useful for navigation. The magnetosphere is the region above the ionosphere and extends several tens of thousands of kilometers into space, protecting the Earth from the charged particles of the solar wind and cosmic rays that would otherwise strip away the upper atmosphere, including the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) reach Earth affecting planetary magnetics, sparking geomagnetic storms, shifting ocean and jet stream currents in the Pacific Ring of Fire, creating unusual and extreme global weather patterns, creating unstoppable Earth changes, and affecting the behavior patterns of all sentient life forms. Earth's last magnetic reversal took place 786,000 years ago and happened very quickly, in less than 100 years -- roughly a human lifetime. Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from huge blasts of deadly solar radiation, has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm. The solution to a long-standing puzzle, why magnetic north sits off the coast of Canada, rather than at the North Pole, may have been found in the strange, lopsided nature of Earth's inner core.
For migratory birds and sea turtles, the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field is crucial to navigating the long-distance voyages these animals undertake during migration. Humans may have a sixth sense after all, suggests a new study finding that a protein in the human retina, when placed into fruit flies, has the ability to detect magnetic fields. A light-sensitive protein in the human eye has been shown to act as a "compass" in a magnetic field, when it is present in flies' eyes. In order to date environmental events from Earth's history such as meteorite impacts or climate change - geologists have long studied variations in slow-growing seafloor sedimentary rocks called ferromanganese crusts that build up in layers over the eons.
Scientists have managed to push back the date for the earliest known presence of a magnetic field on Earth by about 250 million years. Building on prior investigation into the biological mechanisms through which monarch butterflies are able to migrate up to 2,000 miles from eastern North America to a particular forest in Mexico each year, neurobiologists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have linked two related photoreceptor proteins found in butterflies to animal navigation using the Earth's magnetic field.
The magnetic equivalent of electricity in a 'spin ice' material: atom sized north and south poles in spin ice drift in opposite directions when a magnetic field is applied. Princeton University scientists have shown that, in ancient times, the Earth's magnetic field was structured like the two-pole model of today, suggesting that the methods geoscientists use to reconstruct the geography of early land masses on the globe are accurate. The flow of seawater across Earth's surface could be responsible for small fluctuations in the planet's magnetic field, a controversial new study says. NASA's Swift satellite reported multiple blasts of radiation from a rare object known as a soft gamma repeater, or SGR. An enormous eruption has found its way to Earth after traveling for many thousands of years across space. Based on studies of old volcanic basalt, scientists know that the EarthOs magnetic field reverses at irregular intervals, ranging from tens of thousands to millions of years.
An unexpected, thick layer of solar particles inside Earth's magnetic field suggests there are huge breaches in our planet's solar defenses. Scientists have found two large leaks in Earth's magnetosphere, the region around our planet that shields us from severe solar storms. NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth's magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Ancient lava flows are guiding a better understanding of what generates and controls the Earth's magnetic field - and what may drive it to occasionally reverse direction. Rapid changes in the churning movement of Earth's liquid outer core are weakening the magnetic field in some regions of the planet's surface, a new study says. Earth's magnetic field is weakening in staggered steps, a new analysis of centuries-old ships logs suggests.The finding could help scientists better understand the way Earth's magnetic poles reverse.
One of the most fascinating natural phenomena on Earth is the flipping of its magnetic field, which has occurred hundreds of times in the last 160 million years. After some 400 years of relative stability, Earth's North Magnetic Pole has moved nearly 1,100 kilometers out into the Arctic Ocean during the last century and at its present rate could move from northern Canada to Siberia within the next half-century. A long look at a young pulsar with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed unexpectedly rapid cooling, which suggests that it contains much denser matter than previously expected. Earth's magnetic field has flipped many times over the last billion years, according to the geologic record. Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it in 1845, scientists say. Compasses uses the constantly changing magnetosphere near the North Pole to show direction. The difference between the North Pole and the Magnetic North Pole is that the former is a geographic pole with a stationary location at 90° North. Roughly analogous to a magnet, the Earth generates a magnetosphere through magnetic north and south poles.


I remember when I was a Boy Scout we were always taught to adjust for magnetic north on a compass. Have you ever considered what would happen if you woke up one morning and all compasses were pointing in the opposite direction from the norm? It has been found, in a new study performed by a team of scientists from all over the world, that the last magnetic reversal (which occurred less than a million years ago) happened in a time span of less than a hundred years. It has been proven that many animals are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field, but this had never been proven for humans. There is now evidence that indicates that the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing at a rate that is 10 times faster than normal. A magnetic reversal is a planet-wide phenomenon that is driven by convection in the iron core of the Earth. This new finding was made through measurements of the magnetic field alignment that was found in layers of ancient lake sediment that is now exposed in the Sulmona Basin in Italy. Because the sediments were deposited at a steady rate over a period lasting more than 10,000 years, it was easy to identify the date of the layer that showed magnetic reversal; approximately 785,000 years ago. Research from the team in Italy shows that the sudden reversal was preceded by a period of instability that lasted for well over 5,000 years.
As of right now, researchers are unsure if the new findings spell trouble for our modern civilization. So the idea that it could completely flip around, or collapse altogether, should cause us to worry, right? However, we are long overdue for a long-term reversal, since the last one occurred about 780,000 years ago. Many downplay the risk to humans, noting that the magnetosphere rarely disappears, so life on Earth remains largely protected during the reversal.
In fact, some researchers have opined that there is “a direct link between the demise of the Neanderthals .
However, at irregular intervals averaging several hundred thousand years, the Earth's field reverses and the North and South Magnetic Poles relatively abruptly switch places.
The rapid flip, much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought, comes as new measurements show the planet's magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal and could drop to zero in a few thousand years. The layers can be dated by various means, such as by analyzing radioactive isotopes, but those methods don't provide accurate dating on small scales: a millimeter of rock, for example, can include information that spans as much as hundreds of thousands of years. The shift widens the distance between true north and magnetic north, which is the direction a compass needle points.
Experts know birds possess an internal magnetic compass, but there is disagreement about what form it takes. The findings may lead to a better understanding of historical continental movement, which relates to changes in climate. If so, the research would challenge the widely accepted theory that Earth's magnetic field is generated by a churning molten core, or dynamo, in the planet's interior. Now, astronomers report an in-depth study of these eruptions using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton and International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) satellites. Volcanic basalt rock contains magnetite, and when the rock cools, its magnetic properties are frozen, recording the Earth's magnetic field of the time. These breaches indicate that during the next period of high solar activity, due to start in 2012, Earth will experience some of the worst solar storms seen in decades.
The leaks are defying many of scientists' previous ideas on how the interaction between Earth's magnetosphere and solar wind occurs: The leaks are in an unexpected location, let in solar particles in faster than expected and the whole interaction works in a manner that is completely the opposite of what scientists had thought. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to "load up" the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms.
The main magnetic field, generated by turbulent currents within the deep mass of molten iron of the Earth's outer core, periodically flips its direction, such that a compass needle would point south rather than north. The planet's magnetic field flips - north becomes south and vice versa - on average every 300,000 years. If that happens, Alaska may be in danger of losing one of its most stunning natural phenomena ? the Northern Lights.
The pulsar's cool temperature and the vast magnetic web of high-energy particles that surrounds it have implications for the theory of nuclear matter and the origin of magnetic fields in cosmic objects. But only in the past decade have scientists developed and evolved a computer model to demonstrate how these reversals occur.
Like a Kryptonite-challenged Superman, its strength has steadily and mysteriously waned, leaving parts of the planet vulnerable to increased radiation from space.
James Ross located the pole for the first time in 1831 after an exhausting arctic journey during which his ship got stuck in the ice for four years In 1904, Roald Amundsen found the pole again and discovered that it had moved at least 50 km since the days of Ross. This geographic North Pole, also known as true north, is the fixed northernmost point on earth from which all points lie south. The magnetosphere forms a large, charged field around the earth, with pinched funnels or cusps at each pole. It is moving so fast, that in 2005 the BBC reported some scientists projected that it would be over Siberia by 2055.
This isn’t of great concern for most people, but those traveling in Arctic regions must take the position of the Magnetic North Pole into consideration for an accurate calculation of true position. I can't believe that I didn't know this for so long! I agree that for most people are just interested in the general direction of north, this is not a problem at all. The compass needle would always point off to the left of the North setting, so we'd twist the dial until the N matched up with where the needle was pointing. This would cause geomagnetic health problems for a huge portion of the planet’s population. However, in a 2006 review on disturbances in the geomagnetic field and cardiovascular health, it was proven that there is a link between human health and geomagnetism; especially at high latitudes. Therefore, if the field weakens or is temporarily lost, it may cause an increase in cancer rates. This date is the most precise one to date; previously others place the polar reversal anywhere between 770,000 and 795,000 years ago. Furthermore, they were able to show that this period of instability included two intervals of low magnetic field strength that lasted for 2,000 years each. However, the new information will help scientists determine how and why Earth’s magnetic field reverses polarity. Roughly speaking it is the field of a magnetic dipole currently tilted at an angle of about 10 degrees with respect to Earth's rotational axis, as if there were a bar magnet placed at that angle at the center of the Earth. These reversals of the geomagnetic poles leave a record in rocks that are of value to paleomagnetists in calculating geomagnetic fields in the past.
It is surrounded by a liquid outer core (mostly iron and nickel), a rocky, viscous mantle layer and a thin, solid crust. One idea is that tiny magnets in the beak wired to the nervous system detect lines of magnetic force.


By taking a closer look at the 1.1 billion-year-old volcanic rocks on the north shore of Lake Superior, the researchers have found that Earth's ancient magnetic field was a geocentric axial dipole -- essentially a large bar magnet centered in the core and aligned with the Earth's spin axis. With this data, scientists estimate that the last magnetic field reversal occurred about 780,000 years ago. Such polarity reversals have occurred hundreds of times at irregular intervals throughout the planet's history - most recently about 780,000 years ago - but scientists are still trying to understand how and why. Scientists already suspected birds' eyes contain molecules that are thought to sense Earth's magnetic field.
The last time this happened was some 780,000 years ago, so we could be heading for another reversal soon. The pole kept going during the 20th century, north at an average speed of 10 km per year, lately accelerating to 40 km per year. The Magnetic North Pole marks the point where the magnetic field feeds downwards to Earth at a 90° angle, relative to the surface. Other scientists believe the migration recorded to date could be part of an oscillation pattern that will ultimately have the pole shifting back towards Canada.
As of 2014, the Magnetic North Pole is moving hastily towards Siberia and apparently, it's also weakening. Let's just hope that the Magnetic North Pole makes a turn to where it was before and strengthens soon. It's also probably not a problem for people in the southern hemisphere when they need to go towards the north. I don't think it really made that much of a difference when hiking through the woods, but I suppose a big ship on the open ocean would need to know that sort of thing. In addition, in the same year, a study done in Australia showed that there is indeed a link between geomagnetic activity and a peak in suicide rates. But, if one were to occur today, there are concerns that it could potentially wreak havoc on our electrical grid because of the currents that will be generated.
If this reversal were to be preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior, then the danger to life would be even greater. Italian researchers were able to to measure the magnetic field directions using argon-argon dating from the ash that has accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. Perhaps the most incredible finding was that the reversal most likely occured in less than a century’s time. Unlike a bar magnet, however, Earth's magnetic field changes over time because it is generated by a geodynamo (in Earth's case, the motion of molten iron alloys in its outer core). Such information in turn is helpful in studying the motions of continents and ocean floors in the process of plate tectonics. New findings show that a missing piece of the traditional theory explaining why metals become less conductive when they are heated was needed to complete the puzzle of this field-generating process. As the inner core cools, crystallizing iron releases impurities, sending lighter molten material into the liquid outer core.
The planet's magnetic field is on the move, a normal enough phenomenon, but one that has some rather bizarre implications, such as the need to renumber airport runways. Another is that magnetic fields are ''seen'' via the eyes using a light-sensitive mechanism.
Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.
In a new study, German researchers found that these molecules are linked to an area of the brain known to process visual information. There, the heat of the Earth's solid inner core churns a liquid outer core composed of iron and nickel. What is uncertain is whether the weakened field is on the way to a complete collapse and a reversal that would flip the North and South Poles.
Scientists think that if the Magnetic North Pole keeps moving at the same pace and direction, there may eventually be a pole reversal. But for people in the very northern hemisphere need to make sure they use GPS instead like the article said.
When enough sediment collects, it tumbles like an avalanche, into the outer core, thereby cooling it. During this period, the field was even weaker, with only 5% of today’s field strength.
This upwelling, combined with the Earth's rotation, drives convection, forcing the molten metal into whirling vortices. Tampa International Airport on Florida's west coast just finished renaming its three runways, a laborious project that interrupted airport traffic for a month while runways were shut down for repainting. The new research suggests that, for robins at least, the second theory is probably correct.
In that sense, "birds may see the magnetic field," said study lead author Dominik Heyers, a biologist at the University of Oldenburg.
Since 1840, when accurate measures of the intensity were first made, the field strength has declined by about 5 percent per century. The churning acts like convection, which generates electric currents and, as a result, a magnetic field. As a consequence, Earth nearly completely lost its protection shield against hard cosmic rays, leading to a significantly increased radiation exposure.
German scientists studied 36 European robins and found birds with damage to ''cluster N'' were unable to orientate themselves using the Earth's magnetic field.
Human-made compasses work by using Earth as an enormous magnet and orienting a tiny magnet attached to a needle to the planet's north and south poles. If this decline is continuous, the magnetic field could drop to zero and reverse sometime within the next 2,000 years. Currently, the center of the field, called an axis, emerges in the Arctic Ocean west of Ellesmere Island, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the geographic North Pole. But the field might not always be in steady decline, according to a new study appearing in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science. The rotational effect helps scientists understand what's happening inside the Earth's core.
Some speculative studies have suggested that as the Earth’s magnetic field weakens we could see an increase in cloud coverage in the troposphere and an increase in the polar ozone holes .



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