- Posted July 15, 2014 by
Scientists find hole in Earth's magnetic field on July 2014- Earth’s magnetic poles are shifting; north and south poles set to flip
THE north and south poles are getting ready to flip
In a few thousand years the north pole will become the south pole and the south pole the north pole, say scientists with the European Space Agency (ESA).
And it’s all because of a weakening in the Earth’s magnetic poles, which protect the planet from blasts of deadly solar radiation.
The strength of the magnetic fields have been weakening over the past six months, data collected by an ESA satellite called Swarm shows.
The biggest weak spots are over the western Hemispehere, while the field has strengthened over areas like the southern Indian Ocean.
While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 per cent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought, Live Science reports.
Scientists can’t explain why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager.
Right now, the data suggests the north pole is moving toward Siberia.
“Such a flip is not instantaneous, but would take many hundred if not a few thousand years,” Floberghagen told Live Science.
“They have happened many times in the past.“.
Earth's magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than thought in the Western Hemisphere
Refer to picture: This map shows the filed from January to June. Shades of red represent areas of strengthening, while blues show areas of weakening over the 6-month period.
Scientists find hole in Earth's magnetic field
Recent satellite observations have revealed the largest breach yet seen in the magnetic field that protects Earth from most of the sun's violent blasts, researchers reported Tuesday. The discovery was made last summer by Themis, a fleet of five small NASA satellites.
Scientists have long known that the Earth's magnetic field, which guards against severe space weather, is similar to a drafty old house that sometimes lets in violent eruptions of charged particles from the sun. Such a breach can cause brilliant auroras or disrupt satellite and ground communications.
Observations from Themis show the Earth's magnetic field occasionally develops two cracks, allowing solar wind — a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun at 1 million mph — to penetrate the Earth's upper atmosphere.
Last summer, Themis calculated a layer of solar particles to be at least 4,000 miles thick in the outermost part of the Earth's magnetosphere, the largest tear of the protective shield found so far.
"It was growing rather fast," Themis scientist Marit Oieroset of the University of California, Berkeley told an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Such breaches are temporary, and the one observed last year lasted about an hour, Oieroset said.
Solar flares are a potential danger to astronauts in orbit but generally are not a risk to people on the surface of the Earth.
The research was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.
Scientists initially believed the greatest solar breach occured when the Earth's and sun's magnetic fields are pointed in opposite directions. But data from Themis found the opposite to be true. Twenty times more solar wind passed into the Earth's protective shield when the magnetic fields were aligned, Oieroset said.
The Themis results could have bearing on how scientists predict the severity of solar storms and their effects on power grids, airline and military communications and satellite signals.
The Themis satellites were launched to find the source of brief powerful geomagnetic disturbances in the Earth's atmosphere.