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.