Lately there have been a lot of debates on whether the magnetic poles would flip or not. The issue was brought up because the Northern lights are going south. More accurately, the auroras, commonly observed in the northern hemisphere, will be visible, somewhere in the near futures, in the Southern part of the United States.
The reason that prompted this unusual changes in how Earth’s magnetic field is interacting with highly-charged solar particles, is that the field itself is beginning to show signs of weakness. According to a paper publish in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences by Doctor Dennis Kent, a paleomagnetism specialist from the University of Columbia, over the last 200 years, Earth’s magnetic field has weakened by about 10 percent.
Moreover, as the magnetic field’s power drops, the auroras, the grand spectacle of the sky, will move further down south. Doctor Kent explained that if the magnetic field is strong, the auroras can only be visible at higher latitudes. So, by gradually dropping in intensity, the auroras, created from the interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and solar dust, will descent to lower latitudes.
Following this string of events, the scientists immediately raised another alarming question. If the northern light are going south, doesn’t this mean that the poles are going to shift again? Pole flipping is a natural phenomenon. According to estimates, Earth flipped its poles several hundred times in the past 100 million years. The last pole flipping is believed to have taken place approximately 780.000 years ago. This in term lead to the destabilization of the entire magnetic field, leaving Earth vulnerable to cosmic radiation.
But Kent reassured us that pole flipping isn’t going to happen. By his indications, Earth’s magnetic field, although gradually losing its luster, is still very strong. Also, the scientific community doesn’t expect another pole shifting for another thousands of years.
So, how did the researchers take such precise measurement of Earth’s magnetic field? Usually, after a volcano erupts, it leaves behind quite a lot of magnetic rock. Upon cooling down, these volcanic formation reveal a couple of minerals that contain iron. These iron formation act like magnets and tend to align with our planet’s magnetic field.
Basically, the researchers take a good look at this iron-baring minerals and calculate the age of the rocky formations. This way they are capable of determining how the magnetic field was oriented in the past. Moreover, they can also ascertain whether the magnetic field is losing his power or not.