Did you know that Earth has two North Poles? There's the geographic North Pole, which never changes. And there's the magnetic North Pole, which is always on the move. And right now it's moving faster than usual.
Over the past 150 years, the magnetic North Pole has casually wandered 685 miles across northern Canada. But right now it's racing 25 miles a year to the northwest.
This could be a sign that we're about to experience something humans have never seen before: a magnetic polar flip. And when this happens, it could affect much more than just your compass.
Shortly after the first geomagnetic polarity time scales were produced, scientists began exploring the possibility that reversals could be linked to extinctions. Most such proposals rest on the assumption that the Earth's magnetic field would be much weaker during reversals. Possibly the first such hypothesis was that high energy particles trapped in the Van Allen radiation belt could be liberated and bombard the Earth. Detailed calculations confirm that if the Earth's dipole field disappeared entirely (leaving the quadrupole and higher components), most of the atmosphere would become accessible to high energy particles, but would act as a barrier to them, and cosmic ray collisions would produce secondary radiation of beryllium-10 or chlorine-36. An increase of beryllium-10 was noted in a 2012 German study showing a peak of beryllium-10 in Greenland ice cores during a brief complete reversal 41,000 years ago which led to the magnetic field strength dropping to an estimated 5% of normal during the reversal. There is evidence that this occurs both during secular variation and during reversals.
Another hypothesis by McCormac and Evans assumes that the Earth's field disappears entirely during reversals. They argue that the atmosphere of Mars may have been eroded away by the solar wind because it had no magnetic field to protect it. They predict that ions would be stripped away from Earth's atmosphere above 100 km. However, paleointensity measurements show that the magnetic field has not disappeared during reversals. Based on paleointensity data for the last 800,000 years, the magnetopause is still estimated to have been at about three Earth radii during the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal. Even if the internal magnetic field did disappear, the solar wind can induce a magnetic field in the Earth's ionosphere sufficient to shield the surface from energetic particles.
Hypotheses have also advanced toward linking reversals to mass extinctions. Many such arguments were based on an apparent periodicity in the rate of reversals, but more careful analyses show that the reversal record is not periodic. It may be, however, that the ends of superchrons have caused vigorous convection leading to widespread volcanism, and that the subsequent airborne ash caused extinctions.
Tests of correlations between extinctions and reversals are difficult for a number of reasons. Larger animals are too scarce in the fossil record for good statistics, so paleontologists have analyzed microfossil extinctions. Even microfossil data can be unreliable if there are hiatuses in the fossil record. It can appear that the extinction occurs at the end of a polarity interval when the rest of that polarity interval was simply eroded away. Statistical analysis shows no evidence for a correlation between reversals and extinctions.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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