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Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Shifting Too Fast for NOAA Scientists to Keep Up



T The Earth's magnetic field has always been in motion, thanks to the changing patterns of molten metals in the outer core of the planet. But a new report suggests that this natural variability has taken on surprising dimensions since 2015. New geological evidence shows that the Earth's magnetic field is changing much more frequently than usual. It is not great news for crucial global networks that depend on its stability, such as navigation tools and satellite GPS, as well as natural phenomena such as animal migration and even the protection we receive from solar winds.

The report, published in Nature on Wednesday, showed that the Earth's magnetic field is shifting so rapidly and unpredictably that it is making the models on which our lives depend obsolete at a faster pace than never. Scientists are struggling to keep up.

Normally, scientists with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey meet every five years to produce a model of the Earth's magnetic field called the World Magnetic Model. The WMM, which maps the current status of the exchange field, helps technologists, researchers and navigators around the world to maintain a shared map of the Earth's magnetic field.

Since the WMM is updated only every five years, scientists build a range of variability to account for the subtle changes that will inevitably occur before the next update.

But so much has changed since the WMM 201

5 came out the world can not wait for the 2020 update. As reported by Witze, at the start of 2018 the MMM was already reaching unacceptable levels of error for browsing. Unfortunately, even the short-term solution is in limbo. With NOAA staff licensed due to government shutdown, the proposed short-term update is suspended for at least other weeks.

  Earth's magnetic field
The Earth's magnetic field protects us from the most harmful portions of solar radiation.

Shortly after the publication of the WMM 2015, several factors quickly contributed to making it less useful. Already in 2016, scientists pointed out that the magnetic field was changing faster than expected when the ESA swarm satellites found that the region above South America was changing particularly rapidly. Then, in 2018, a phenomenon in the field between South America and Africa, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, weakened so much that it actually interrupted the satellites as they crossed the region.

  The WMM 2010 shows that the Earth's magnetic field is much more complicated than just north, south, east and west.
The WMM 2010 shows that the Earth's magnetic field is much more complicated than just north, south, east and west.

The news of these two events raised concerns about the Earth that was about to undergo an inversion of total magnetic pole, in which the north and south poles completely exchange positions. An event like this would have devastated the satellites electric lines, ocean currents and animal migrations. And while the concerns that the Earth's magnetic field is reversed in the near future are probably unrealistic, geophysicists have noticed that the Earth is late for a reversal, historically speaking.


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