Earth’s Electromagnetic Field Is Weakening: Dramatic Shift Ahead?

The Earth's electromagnetic field is currently weakening 10,000 times faster than expected.

The Earth’s electromagnetic field is changing, according to scientists, weakening in certain areas and strengthening in others in what some believe may be a precursor to a dramatic shift in the planet’s magnetic poles.

The Earth’s electromagnetic field has long been known to be geographically inconsistent. Evidence of the field’s shifting nature has been acknowledged for decades, although scientists admit that they are unsure of exactly why the electromagnetic field is changing. The Earth’s north magnetic pole is currently moving from its location in Canada, heading toward Siberia at a speed of roughly 40 miles per year. The electromagnetic poles are never stable, moving sometimes as much as 15km in one year, but the rate at which they wander is recently accelerating, according to National Geographic.

As IFLScience recounts, the electromagnetic field is generated by the Earth’s iron core, which operates as a giant magnet. Scientists know that the Earth’s electromagnetic poles can switch places over the course of millions of years, and the recent increase in activity has led some to speculate that just such a change is may be about to take place. In November of 2013, the European Space Agency launched three satellites, known as the Swarm constellation, which are able to measure the changes in the Earth’s electromagnetic field with unprecedented accuracy.

Earth’s electromagnetic field generally measures around 40,000 nT (nanoteslas), and the change over North America has been 80 nT over the last six months. While that difference may seem small compared to the electromagnetic field in general, it is the rapidity of the change that worries observers. If the trend were to continue, a weak electromagnetic field could expose the Earth to a myriad of cosmic dangers. As The Inquisitr has previously detailed, the field is responsible for shielding the Earth from a variety of cosmic radiation sources, not the least of which is our own sun.

The electromagnetic field is currently weakening 10 times faster than expected, though to the best of human knowledge, the Earth has never been without a magnetic field. Although the electromagnetic field has shifted in the past, a polarity flip is not known to coincide with any mass extinction events, leading scientists to the belief that a such an event would not be deadly to life on Earth. A dramatic shift would also likely occur over the course of millennia, rather than decades, scientists caution.

The results of the Swarm mission were presented in Copenhagen on Thursday. Dr Rune Floberghagen, the mission manager, said that the initial results prove that “With unprecedented resolution” Swarm has a unique capability to map the Earth’s volatile and changing electromagnetic field.

[Image via IFLScience]