Life on Earth would not be possible without the magnetic field that protects our planet, but Euronews and the European Space Agency report that research shows that it is weakening fast. In the coming centuries, Earth's magnetic field is expected to go through unprecedented changes.
The field is generated deep within the core of the planet and acts as shield that protects the Earth from solar winds and charged particles.
Many living organisms – from bacteria to insects or birds – seem to rely on Earth's magnetic field to navigate. Man has been doing so for a thousand years since the invention of the compass.
Currently, about 100 observatories around the world measure the magnetic field. Because ground observatories fail to grasp the whole picture, magnetometers are sent into orbit to try to measure the magnitude and the direction of the magnetic field. The European Space Agency is developing sophisticated satellite/magnetometer systems that will capture more detailed data.
Scientists are trying to understand why the magnetic field is weakening. Some believe it signals a pole reversal in progress, not an uncommon phenomenon in the history of our planet. Each reversal takes hundreds of thousands of years to complete. Scientists estimate that the last reversal was 800,000 years ago. Generally, however, the geologic record indicates that the pole reversal occurs every 200,000 to 300,000 years.
The rapid melting of Arctic ice is also being studied in the context of climate change and the weakening of the magnetic field.
For those who fear that a pole shift will occur in the near future, spelling doomsday on December 21, 2012, NASA has good news: "The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is – in terms of geologic time scales – a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia. While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable – the north pole's movement could subtly change direction, for instance – there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the 2012 doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously. A reversal might, however, be good business for magnetic compass manufacturers."
D. Beeksma, www.goddiscussion.com