According to scientists, this mysterious anomaly could be a precursor to Earth’s poles changing positions.
New scientific studies have found something rather alarming.
Earth’s magnetic field is dramatically weakening. As noted by a new research, the disruption of Earth’s magnetic field is part of a pattern that has existed for the last 1,000 years.
And while experts have known that Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening over the decades, of all the places on the planet, one region of Africa suffers a more dangerous anomaly than the rest.
Our planet is wrapped in a dipolar magnetic field that originates in the planet’s core.
This field moves as the core flows and, after long geological periods, Earth’s poles can switch positions, as magnetic north moves to the south (and vice versa).
This is a process that can last up to thousands of years, and the last time it happened was about 780,000 years ago, although it was closed again about 40,000 years ago.
Some researchers say we should be worried.
But why exactly?
Well, if Earth’s poles really do switch, the main problem is that during the process the intensity of the magnetic field that protects our planet from solar radiation would vary more than normal. Scientists fear that during this occurrence, the planet’s magnetic field could allow more hazardous radiation from space penetrate the protective layer, causing problems on the surface of the planet.
As of now, we have no idea when the flip may occur, especially due to the lack of data.
However, researchers have spent years studying a number of clues that can help predict that hypothetical inversal as much as possible.
This study has pointed experts to a part on Earth that is troubling. Referred to as the South Atlantic Anomaly: this massive area that extends from Chile to Zimbabwe.
Scientists say that the field is so weak within the anomaly that its dangerous for the satellites to come into contact since the additional radiation it lets through could disrupt electronic devices.
“We’ve known for quite some time that the magnetic field has been changing, but we didn’t really know if this was unusual for this region on a longer timescale, or whether it was normal,” says physicist Vincent Hare from the University of Rochester in New York.
However, evidence of Earth’s magnetic field weakening and possible pole reversal is scarce, mostly because of the lack of archaeomagnetic data: physical evidence of magnetism in the Earth’s past, preserved in archaeological relics of ancient times.
According to a recent study, some 1,000 years ago, the Bantu peoples performed rituals in times of environmental difficulties.
During periods of drought, they burned their huts of clay and grains, in a ritual of sacred cleansing to make the rains return, without knowing that they carried out a kind of scientific fieldwork for researchers centuries later.
“When you burn clay at very high temperatures, you actually stabilize the magnetic minerals, and when they cool from these very high temperatures, they lock in a record of the earth’s magnetic field,” one of the team, geophysicist John Tarduno explains.
“We were looking for the recurrent behavior of anomalies because we think that’s what is happening today and causing the South Atlantic Anomaly,” Tarduno says.
“We found evidence that these anomalies have happened in the past, and this helps us contextualize the current changes in the magnetic field.”
The fact that the ancient burned down their huts of clay and grains has allowed experts to figuring out that the weakening of the so-called South Atlantic Anomaly is not a standalone phenomenon in history, as similar fluctuations were ‘registered’ in 400-450 CE, 700-750 CE, and 1225-1550 CE.
Furthermore, as noted by Science Alert, the fact that there’s a pattern tells us that the position of the South Atlantic Anomaly isn’t a geographic fluke.
“We’re getting stronger evidence that there’s something unusual about the core-mantle boundary under Africa that could be having an important impact on the global magnetic field,” Tarduno says.