The Earth has a fierce molten core that generates a magnetic field capable of defending our planet against devastating solar winds.
The protective field extends thousands of miles into space and its magnetism affects everything from auroras to power grids.
But this field, so important to life on Earth, has weakened by around 15 per cent over the last 200 years.
And this, scientists claim, could be a sign that the Earth’s poles are about to flip.
In a new report, Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, claims there are signs of a reversal.
He says if this reversal happens, it is likely to render some areas of the planet ‘uninhabitable’ by knocking out power grids.
His comments were made in an in-depth Undark report written by Alanna Mitchell, who has a new book about the topic titled ‘The Spinning Magnet: The Electromagnetic Force that Created the Modern World and Could Destroy It’,
Mitchell writes: ‘The dangers: devastating streams of particles from the sun, galactic cosmic rays, and enhanced ultraviolet B rays from a radiation-damaged ozone layer, to name just a few of the invisible forces that could harm or kill living creatures.’
Historically, Earth’s North and South magnetic poles have flipped every 200,000 or 300,000 years.
However a flip is currently overdue as the last one was about 780,000 year ago.
The latest satellite data, from the European Space Agency’s Swarm trio which monitors the Earth’s magnetic field, suggests a flip may be imminent.
The satellites allow researchers to study changes building at the Earth’s core.
Their studies suggest molten iron and nickel are draining energy out of the core near where the magnetic field is generated.
While scientists aren’t sure exactly why this happens, they describe the type of ‘restless activity’ that could suggest the magnetic field is preparing to flip.
If a switch happens, we would be exposed to solar winds capable of punching holes into the ozone layer.
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