Earth’s Core, Magnetic Field Changing Fast, Study Says

Rapid changes in the churning movement of Earth‘s liquid outer core are weakening the magnetic field in some regions of the planet’s surface, a new study says.

“What is so surprising is that rapid, almost sudden, changes take place in the Earth’s magnetic field,” said study co-author Nils Olsen, a geophysicist at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen.

The findings suggest similarly quick changes are simultaneously occurring in the liquid metal, 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) below the surface, he said.

The swirling flow of molten iron and nickel around Earth’s solid center triggers an electrical current, which generates the planet’s magnetic field.

(Learn more about Earth’s interior.)

The study, published recently in Nature Geoscience, modeled Earth’s magnetic field using nine years of highly accurate satellite data.


Fluctuations in the magnetic field have occurred in several far-flung regions of Earth, the researchers found.

In 2003 scientists found pronounced changes in the magnetic field in the Australasian region. In 2004, however, the changes were focused on Southern Africa.

The changes “may suggest the possibility of an upcoming reversal of the geomagnetic field,” said study co-author Mioara Mandea, a scientist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam.

Earth’s magnetic field has reversed hundreds of times over the past billion years, and the process could take thousands of years to complete.

(Related story: “Magnetic Field Weakening in Stages, Old Ships’ Logs Suggest” [May 11, 2006])

Upper Atmosphere Radiation

The decline in the magnetic field also is opening Earth’s upper atmosphere to intense charged particle radiation, scientists say.

Satellite data show the geomagnetic field decreasing in the South Atlantic region, Mandea said, adding that an oval-shaped area east of Brazil is significantly weaker than similar latitudes in other parts of the world.

“It is in this region that the shielding effect of the magnetic field is severely reduced, thus allowing high energy particles of the hard radiation belt to penetrate deep into the upper atmosphere to altitudes below a hundred kilometers (62 miles),” Mandea said.

This radiation does not influence temperatures on Earth. The particles, however, do affect technical and radio equipment and can damage electronic equipment on satellites and airplanes, Olsen of the Danish space center said.

Keep Watching

The study documents just how rapidly the flow in Earth’s core is changing, said Peter Olson, a geophysics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved with the research.

By using satellite imagery, researchers have a nearly continuous measurement of changes, he said.

“They provide a good rationale to continue this monitoring longer,” Olson said.

Kimberly Johnson
for National Geographic News
June 30, 2008

Source: National Geographic

3 thoughts on “Earth’s Core, Magnetic Field Changing Fast, Study Says”

  1. Solid core, surrounded by molten liquid, creating a generator effect causing a magnetic field. The magnetic field changes are the result of what ? Possible gravitational pull from other planets possibly. What does the movement of the north pole signify ? Possibly the solid core is being offset from being more or less centered due to gravitational forces. This could cause the solid center shift to change gyroscopic effects whereby resulting on unbalance thus causing a shift in the poles.

  2. Fascinating, and just a little terrifying. I’m interested in the idea of the planets as massive batteries and generators. The possiblity that our closer neighbors Venus, Mars and Jupiter may have been close enough to discharge to each other is incredible. Based on the ancient stories of the gods battling in the heavens, the mighty thunderbolt striking and leaving discharge marks like the scars on Mars, canyons that could swallow 10 Grand Canyons.

    The changing and weakening magnetic field is distressing and there must be some way of safely strengthening it with good old human ingenuity. Maybe conservation of electrical production and consumption would allow it to charge its core and focus “more power to the shields Scottie! Or send more electricity directly to the core in ultra deep wells with long copper cables sending converted solar energy directly to the core’s outer shell.

    Computer modeling would help to see if we would just make it worse, possibly even short circuit the field alttogether. oops! lights out.

    I sure feel like we’ll see some dramatic changes in our lifetime, I hope it works out alright.

  3. As all the alleged ends approch,I am but ever lost in the heap of so-called facts that are the basis for such apocoliptic recipes. Facts that are held up with lots of here say but no real scientific data to back it as law. I say that in this day and age everyones tring there hand at prophetic Declairation, they play to Mother Earth needind to purge her self free of human toxxic desruction based ideals. The Idea and reasoning is the modern existance is far to wartorn and tolerance………I can go for ever


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