Earth’s magnetic field overdue for a chaos-causing (possibly life-altering) flip

Thursday, October 4, 2012
By Paul Martin

Chris Wickham
Nationalpost.com
Oct 3, 2012

LONDON — The discovery by NASA rover Curiosity of evidence that water once flowed on Mars – the most Earth-like planet in the solar system – should intensify interest in what the future could hold for mankind.

The only thing stopping Earth having a lifeless environment like Mars is the magnetic field that shields us from deadly solar radiation and helps some animals migrate, and it may be a lot more fragile and febrile than one might think.

Scientists say earth’s magnetic field is weakening and could all but disappear in as little as 500 years as a precursor to flipping upside down.

It has happened before – the geological record suggests the magnetic field has reversed every 250,000 years, meaning that, with the last event 800,000 years ago, another would seem to be overdue.

“Magnetic north has migrated more than 1,500 kilometres over the past century,” said Conall Mac Niocaill, an earth scientist at Oxford University. “In the past 150 years, the strength of the magnetic field has lessened by 10 percent, which could indicate a reversal is on the cards.”

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