Scientists monitoring the Earth's magnetic poles suggest that a reversal of the planet's magnetic field, switching between the north and south poles, may occur.
Cohen, a physicist at the University of Massachusetts, said minor shifts in the Earth's magnetic poles shouldn't cause alarm, but, he noted that a complete reversal could have a significant impact on both global climate and modern technology.
Cohen, who specializes in the interaction between Earth and space, explained in Study Finds that the Earth's magnetic field originates from the movement of conducting layers within the planet's core. These layers respond to the motion of negative charges or electrons.
Large-scale movements of these layers create a symmetrical magnetic field, resulting in the establishment of magnetic north and south poles.
Cohen explained that the gradual pole shifts and alterations in the Earth's magnetic field geometry may cause conducting layers to "have some local irregular motions due to local turbulence or smaller flows that do not follow the large-scale pattern."
He continued, "These small-scale deviations in the magnetic field can actually lead to changes in the large-scale field over time and potentially even a complete reversal of the polarity of the dipole field, where the north becomes south and vice versa."
Study Finds highlighted that the magnetic north pole has shifted approximately 600 miles since the initial measurement in 1831, with the rate of shift accelerating from 10 to 34 miles per year in recent times.
Pole reversals occur every 100,000 to 1 million years, and scientists can gauge their frequency by studying volcanic rocks in the oceans, which retain information about the Earth's magnetic field orientation and strength.
A significant magnetic field shift, such as a pole reversal, could disrupt the magnetic "bubble" above the Earth's ionosphere, known as the magnetosphere, according to Study Finds.
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Cohen emphasized that the magnetosphere shields the Earth from harmful cosmic radiation and solar winds. Disruption of the magnetosphere may lead to heightened vulnerability to cosmic radiation, posing risks to satellites, astronauts and large conducting systems such as power grids and pipelines.
The potential reversal of Earth's magnetic poles, though a natural and gradual process, raises concerns about its impact on the planet's climate and technological infrastructure, emphasizing the need for ongoing scientific monitoring and understanding of these phenomena.
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