Tag Archives: magnetic field reversals

Scientists claim Earth’s magnetic field not about to flip

The uncertainty of science: Using computer models and data from the past two changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, some scientists now claim that the weakening of the magnetic field in the past two centuries does not herald an upcoming flip in polarity.

To calculate the likelihood of a full field switch, Holme and his colleagues looked at the magnetic alignment of rock particles deposited in and before the two most recent excursions – the Laschamp event, approximately 41,000 years ago, and the Lake Mono event, which occurred 34,000 years ago.

The scientists found that the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field several thousand years before the two wobbles – at 49,000 and 46,000 years ago – were pretty much the same as they are now. However, they were accompanied by SAA-style weak areas of much greater magnitude.

This, suggests Holme’s teams, considerably reduces the chances of anything drastic happening now. “There has been speculation that we are about to experience a magnetic polar reversal or excursion,” says Holmes. “However, by studying the two most recent excursion events, we show that neither bear resemblance to current changes in the geomagnetic field and therefore it is probably unlikely that such an event is about to happen.

“Our research suggests instead that the current weakened field will recover without such an extreme event, and therefore is unlikely to reverse.”

Can I express my skepticism? This research is interesting, but there is no way it could provide enough data for anyone to trust such a prediction. We have zero knowledge of the behavior of the magnetic field during a polarity switch, and to claim that this data gives us enough information to say that we do understand that behavior is an overstatement of stupendous proportions.

Just as we don’t really understand the mechanics of the Sun’s magnetic field, causing it to flip polarity every 11 years, we certainly don’t understand the Earth’s either. The Earth’s magnetic field is going to do what it is going to do, and when it does, we will then maybe get an inkling as to why it does it.


Earth’s magnetic field might not be flipping

The uncertainty of science: A new analysis of the past strength of the Earth’s magnetic field suggests that today’s field is abnormally strong and that, even with the 10% decline in the field’s strength in the past two centuries, it remains stronger than the average over the past 5 million years.

The new data also suggests that the field might not be about to shut down and then reverse polarity, as some scientists have theorized based on the 10% decline. Instead, the data says that the field’s unusual strength today only means that the decline is bringing it back to its average strength, and is not necessarily an indication of a pending reversal.

To put it mildly, there are a lot of uncertainties here, including questions about the database that has been used previously by geologists to estimate the past strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The database might have been right, but the new study raises significant new questions.