(PART III) Magnetic Pole Reversal Coming Sooner Than You Think

According to scientists’ best estimates, the Earth’s magnetic field is now weakening around 10 times faster than previously predicted, losing approximately 5% of its strength every decade. This finding indicates a magnetic pole reversal could be coming sooner rather than later.

magnetic_pole_reversal

 The geomagnetic dipole has decreased by nearly 6% per century since first measured by Gauss in the 1840s. This too is 10-20 times faster than the “Ohmic” decay rate. (The process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor releases heat). The causes of this rapid decrease in Gauss stability, is the proliferation of reverse magnetic field on the core-mantle boundary. This has occurred especially beneath the South Atlantic with the transference of heat energy in a horizontal stream of the magnetic field from high to low latitudes.

The weakening of Earth’s magnetic field has two fundamental points. First: A weakened magnetic field allows charged particle events such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CME), to produce enhanced consequences to extreme weather events that include earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes etc.

galactic_cosmic_rays_sun_magnetic_field_earths_core_scienceofcycles-com_m

Second: The second major consequence of a weakened magnetic field is its identification as the ‘precursor’ to a magnetic pole shift. It is estimated that Earth’s magnetic field reverses every few thousand years at low latitudes and every 10,000 years at high latitudes. It is believed we are far enough along the cycle that many living today will witness the bouncing back and forth of magnetic north and it swings reaching latitudes below 30°. Magnetic north can also move east and west longitudes.

Precursor First – Then Full Magnetic Flip
Individual magnetic reversal records show a remarkable degree of repeatability, including dipole collapse, rapid polarity change, and fast dipole intensity recovery stages. This is to say historical magnetic field reversals indicate that during the period of Earth’s magnetic field reduction, it will be in flux for several years before a full magnetic flip will incur. At this stage of magnetic minimization close to zero point, the magnetic field may have multiple swings north and south across the equator, additionally with large excursions of geomagnetic polar flux in east and west longitudes.

shifting_magnetic_pole

The final stage of reversal is when the dipole intensity partially recovers. An example of this phenomena would be magnetic north suddenly dropping down to at or below the equator, then rapidly snapping back to say and briefly exceeds the surface non-dipole intensity, which in turn is followed by a very rapid dipole intensity collapse, final reversal, and recovery of the dipole intensity in the new polarity position. The final latitudes and longitude positions are unknown. However, historical records indicate north will be south – and south will be north – but at what degrees North-South-East-West is anyone’s guess.

When the poles flip, having a compass that points South instead of North does not seem like too big of a deal to humans, but there is a question of what will happen other animals. Certain migratory animals like sea turtles and birds use the magnetic field in order to orient themselves. A reversal of the poles could interfere with their ability to do so.

partial_extinction

Another concern about the reversal is that the weakening of the magnetic field, which precedes the flipping event, will mean that it will not be able to adequately shield us from the Sun’s radiation. Although there is no direct evidence in the fossil record of a “mass” extinction correlating with a field reversal or an influx of radiation, records show there have been selective extinctions. Additionally, there is concern of what could happen to power grids, satellites and effects on weather patterns.

The question is not ‘will there be a magnetic pole reversal’, but at what phase are we currently in? I would suggest we are in the last phases. There are many of you who will be able to witness a magnetic reversal firsthand, what transpires over the next 50 to 60 years. Unfortunately, I will not be one of them but my kids will be; and they have been instructed to take good notes and photos to pass on to their kids.

UPDATE: Earth’s Magnetic Field Shifts Much Faster Than Expected

It was back in January 2014, when NASA’s Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (BARREL)’s payload of thallium-activated sodium iodide, NaI(Tl) a crystalline material widely used for the detection of gamma-rays in scintillation detectors, saw something never seen before. During a moderate solar storm in which magnetic solar material collides with Earth’s magnetic field, BARREL mapped for the first time how the storm caused Earth’s magnetic field to shift and move.

earth's magnetic field lines

The fields’ configuration shifted much faster than expected – ‘on the order of minutes’ rather than hours or days. The results took researchers by such surprise causing them to check and re-check instruments and hypothesized outcomes. As a result, their findings were not published until last week on May 12 2016.

barrel

During the solar storm, three BARREL balloons were flying through parts of Earth’s magnetic field that directly connect a region of Antarctica to Earth’s north magnetic pole. One BARREL balloon was on a magnetic field line with one end on Earth and one end connected to the Sun’s magnetic field. And two balloons switched back and forth between closed and open field lines throughout the solar storm, providing a map of how the boundary between open and closed field lines moved.

“It is very difficult to model the open-closed boundary,” said Alexa Halford, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This will help with our simulations of how magnetic fields change around Earth, because we’re able to state exactly where we saw this boundary.”

solar-earth image cluster_m

We live in the path of the Sun’s outflow of charged particles, called the solar wind. Solar wind particles are accelerated to high speeds by explosions on the Sun or pushed along by plasma – clouds of solar material. Much of this magnetic field loops up and out into space, but then connects back to Earth at the north magnetic pole, near the Arctic Circle.

A portion of Earth’s magnetic field is open as it connects to the Sun’s magnetic field. This open magnetic field gives charged particles from the Sun a path into Earth’s atmosphere. Once particles are stuck to an open field line, they exceedingly accelerate down into the upper atmosphere. The boundary between these open and closed regions of Earth’s magnetic field is anything but constant. Due to various causes – such as incoming clouds of charged particles, the closed magnetic field lines can realign into open field lines and vice versa, changing the location of the boundary between open and closed magnetic field lines.

magnetic-shift

Scientists have known the open-closed boundary moves, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly how, when, and how quickly it changes – and that is where BARREL comes in. The six BARREL balloons flying during the January 2014 solar storm were able to map these changes, and they found something surprising – the open-closed boundary moves rapidly changing location within minutes.

It is possible, but unlikely, that complex dynamics in the magnetosphere gave the appearance that the BARREL balloons were dancing along this open-closed boundary. If a very fast magnetic wave was sending radiation belt electrons down into the atmosphere in short stuttering bursts, it could appear that the balloons were switching between open and closed magnetic field lines.

However, the particle counts measured by the two balloons on the open-closed boundary matched up to those observed by the other BARREL balloons hovering on closed or open field lines only. This observation strengths the case that BARREL’s balloons were actually crossing the boundary between solar and terrestrial magnetic field.