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Rocks record the direction of the ambient magnetic field as they form, allowing us to reconstruct the history of these reversals. The question of whether we should be expecting a reversal is most easily addressed by taking a longer view. Fortunately, rocks can preserve information about the palaeointensity (literally, ancient intensity) of the Earth’s magnetic field.
The other interesting thing about this record is that the field has behaved in quite a consistent way during every reversal.
To really place recent field behaviour in context, we really need a better idea of what was going on geomagnetically prior to the instrumental record. But seriously, this is a nice post and should be distributed to Earth Science teachers everywhere. One interesting question is what happens to oganisms, especially birds, that use the magnetic signal to orient for long distance migrations or other navigation. Presumably adjustments are made during periods of excursion, but one would think that rapid shifts would cause a certain amount of disruption and confusion, and maybe a bit of unnatural selection ….
Charged particles from the solar wind (~ 1 keV) would slowly erode Earth’s atmosphere if the magnetic field went away.
As for the Cretaceous Normal Superchron, palaeointensity measurements from that era suggest that the field was very strong, and therefore stable. When the OP says multiply, wander, and so on, this means that the relative strengths of various terms needed to make this a useful description of the earth’s field (the dipole, quadrupole, octopole, and so on) will change. Convection in the outer core normally seems to have a fair degree of large scale organisation, which produces a simple, dominantly dipolar, magnetic field. Then there’s the considerations surrounding the magnetosphere and how it protects us from solar rays. There was a paper a few years ago that calculated that the stronger multipole field during inversions would induce a magnetic field in the ionosphere, which would take over the protection function of the magnetosphere. And I thought that these outer core convection cells are influenced by the position of the continents (thicker crust). PS – thanks for posting your work, I appreciate the willingness to share info and ideas on the web.
One of the side effects of magnetic reversal is that for a period of time the earth’s overall magnetic field will be very irregular.
There could be a number of reasons for Mars’s dead dynamo, it still has a molten core, so if it could suddenly start losing alot of heat, presumably the dynamo could start up tomorrow (well, geologically tomorrow). My point is, that the causes for the death of the dynamo aren’t well enough understood to be saying things without noting the extreme uncertainties in our knowledge of a dynamo that died billions of years ago.
Says the modelling- until we get a seismometer up there we won’t be able to confirm that hypothesis. Using radio tracking of Mars Global Surveyor some people confirmed that there is a part of the outer core that remains liquid to this day. I do believe a new age is almost upon us and that we will be enlightened when the pole shift occurs.
Prepare yourselves for 3.5 days of darkness when the earth stops rotating and the 6 hrs it will take for pole changes!


Modern grain bins in southern Africa, which are very similar to the grain bins found in that continent's Iron Age. The ritualistic practice of burning down huts and grain bins in South African agricultural communities might give scientists some clues as to the process that leads to the reversal of the planet's magnetic field. The particular location of the huts is important, because they sit in a region that has long been known to be a weak spot in the Earth’s magnetic field. The results suggest that underneath these huts, the Earth’s core might play an important role in the reversal of the planet’s magnetic poles. The last time the poles switched is thought to have been around 800,000 years ago, and some suggest that this process, which can take 15,000 years to complete, has started again. The study, published in Nature Communications, found that between 1225 and 1550 CE, there was a sharp 30% drop in magnetic intensity in the region. By providing this information, you are opting to receive emails from Really Good Stuff® with promotions and messages tailored to your interests. My experience with Professor Ciminale started in 2007 during my Master's degree thesis, and lasted until my PhD in 2014 and the following research contracts. At the moment, magnetic field lines run from the south pole to the north pole, and point up in the southern hemisphere and down in the northern hemisphere, as in the figure on the left below. The symmetric pattern of magnetic anomalies either side of mid-ocean ridges, give us a continuous record of magnetic reversals stretching back almost 200 million years.
Effectively, the stronger the magnetizing field, the stronger the rock’s magnetisation will be.
Every switch in polarity occurs when the field is at its weakest – the palaeointensities are lower during reversals than at any other point in this record. Problems with complex magnetic mineralogy, and overprints, and possible thermal alteration during the experiments, are also rife. I didn’t really understand the field mimimums before or that we should be able to see a reversal coming a at least a couple centuries in advance. The total field is described in this sort of model by adding up all the terms with coefficients with large magnitudes, so the net field looks different as the magnitudes of these coefficients vary and the signs flip. What seems to happen during reversals is that convection becomes more disorganised; this means that the magnetic field produced is also more complicated, with shorter wavelength quadropole and octopole components becoming stronger at the expense of the longer wavelength dipole field. If there was even a slight ripple in our protective covering, I think we’d be in for a world of hurt.
The main thing that strikes me is that I see no mention of mechanisms, processes, forces or energy that might account for a flipping of the Earth’s magnetic field in the future (or for that matter, in the past). There are two really good counterexamples in the terrestrial planets: Mercury is much smaller than Mars and almost definitely has an active dynamo, Venus is much bigger than Mars and does not have an active dynamo.
When you see people doing mad acts as if during a full moon but 100x stronger, we will know the time is upon us. Oh, and the Earth will not stop spinning, the stars will not fall from the sky, and the Great Old Ones will not return to eat us all (probably). By analyzing a particular mineral formed by the burning of the huts, the researchers were able to track how the magnetic field in this area has changed over time. Equally, the magnetic field of the planet is known to vary so we could simply be seeing natural fluctuations. With the Earth’s magnetic field strength having dropped by 16% since 1840, some people think that it could indicate the beginning of another cycle in which the planet’s poles change, though the researchers of this study think it could simply be a feature of a larger cycle of magnetic shifts. During these years he was my mentor and reference for both professional and personal growth.


But at many points in the past, the field lines (and compasses, if they’d been invented) pointed south, and, as the figure on the right below shows, were directed upwards in the northern hemisphere and downwards in the southern hemisphere.
We palaeomagicians are particularly interested in how the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field varies during reversals, because geodynamo theory suggests that reversals are probably more likely to happen when fluctuations in outer core convection weaken and destabilise the dipole. If you measure the magnetisation acquired by your rock samples in artificial magnetic fields of known value, you can use this experimentally determined relationship to infer the strength of the geomagnetic field required to impart the original remanent magnetization.
Increasing numbers of relative paleointensity records, mainly from measurements of marine sediment cores, have been published in recent years. Instead, the geomagnetic field will weaken, and the magnetic poles will start to wander to lower latitudes, and possibly multiply, over a period of hundreds and thousands of years.
Intermediate charged particles ( ~ 1 keV – 1 MeV) would cause aurora effects but would cause little ground effects at sea level.
Years of reading X-Men comics have taught me that reversing the Earth’s magnetic field can happen very quickly and causes massive global catastrophe. I see a reasonable argument for a decline in the strength of our magnetic field, but nothing that indicates (even remotely) impending reversal.
But, as far as a polar shift, where the crust itself moves, putting the north pole somewhere in saudi, I don’t know.
My prediction is major changes starting somewhere between Dec 2011 and February 2012 which is a precurser for the shift which will occur on the equinox of Dec 21, 2012. This prediction is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field has been steadily decreasing, at a rate of about 5% a century, since we first started directly measuring it in the mid 1800s.
In each case, the reversal is preceded by at least 20,000-40,000 years of fairly continuous decay in field strength to about the same (very low) value, with a much more rapid recovery in field strength following the transition. It looks dramatic from the perspective of Deep Time, but during a reversal the changes over a human lifetime will probably be little different from the secular variation we see today.
No extinction event has ever been linked to a magnetic field reversal, and I think that we might just cope with the next one too – whenever it might occur. Then this last week I read an article on whales being beached by the 100’s in Australia. The truth is often hard and he was true and demanding, trying always to put into practice intellectual honesty. Without a better idea of how the geodynamo behaves over geological time, there’s no way of knowing.
This event was not limited to the one time but has happened several times over the last few months.
This point of view, all his knowledge regarding Geophysics and Remote Sensing, and his management abilities were and always will be a model for me. Furthemore, collaborating with him everyday and especially during surveys enabled both myself and the collegues of his research group to discover his fun personality and his acute and, at the same time, meditative intelligence.




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