Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Mysteriously Weakening, Causing Issues For Satellites
The European Space Agency has observed that the Earth’s magnetic field is increasingly weakening between Africa and South America, causing satellites and spacecraft to malfunction, according to The Independent.
Scientists say the magnetic field has decreased by 8 percent from 1970 to 2020 in a region known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.
The underlying cause remains unclear.
ESA scientists said the weakening magnetic field could be “a sign that the Earth's magnetic field is about to reverse, whereby the North Pole and South Pole switch places” — known as a "geomagnetic reversal.”
The last time such a reversal occurred was 780,000 years ago, and some scientists believe another is long overdue.
Geomagnetic reversals tend to occur about every 250,000 years.
Scientists noted that the process is not instantaneous and could play out over 10,000 years.
However, a reversal would cause serious disruptions, leading telecommunications to fail and making the Earth more vulnerable to cosmic weather like solar wind.
The Independent also noted that “A 2018 study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that despite the weakening field, ‘Earth's magnetic field is probably not reversing"’.
"The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is developing vigorously," said Jürgen Matzka, from the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
"We are very lucky to have the Swarm satellites in orbit to investigate the development of the South Atlantic Anomaly. The challenge now is to understand the processes in Earth's core driving these changes."