“A geomagnetic reversal may happen sooner than expected,” says this article in Scientific American.
“The European Space Agency’s satellite array dubbed “Swarm” revealed that Earth’s magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than previously thought, decreasing in strength about 5 percent a decade rather than 5 percent a century,” the article continues. “A weakening magnetic field may indicate an impending reversal.”
So far, I agree. But then the article veers way off course.
“Earth’s magnetic north and south poles have flip-flopped many times in our planet’s history—most recently, around 780,000 years ago,” the article asserts.
I completely disagree with that statement.
Why? Because it ignores magnetic excursions.
A magnetic excursion refers to those times in the past when the earth’s magnetic field temporarily headed south. Sometimes it began fluctuating and then settled down. Sometimes it moved part way south and then moved back north again. Sometimes it moved all the way south and then back north.
To my way of thinking, just because the field quickly moved back north doesn’t mean that a reversal didn’t take place. If I fall down and then immediately jump back up, that doesn’t remove that fact that I did indeed fall down.
There have been many magnetic reversals/excursions during the last 780,000 years. To name a few are the Gothenburg, the Mono Lake, the Lake Mungo, the Laschamp, the Blake, Biwa I, Biwa II, Biwa III, Emperor, Big Lost and Delta. And many more magnetic reversals/excursions have probably occurred thee past 780,000 years that scientists have not yet identified.
“The flipping takes an average of 5,000 years,” the article continues. “It can happen as quickly as 1,000 years or as slowly as 20,000 years.”
Again, I disagree. Some studies reveal that magnetic reversals can occur far faster than that. I describe one such speedy reversal in Not by Fire but by Ice.
“In a study of lava flows at Steens Mountain, south central Oregon (which erupted during a reversal, by the way), Michel Prévot, Edward Mankinen, Robert Coe, and C. Sherman Grommé found that magnetic intensity had fallen to less than 10% of today’s in less than one year.
Perhaps in less than two months.
During a follow-up study in 1989, Coe and Prévot found that the field had reversed at the rate of three degrees per day.
Perhaps in only three weeks.
Not content with their earlier findings, Coe and his colleagues took another look. The earth’s magnetic field had reversed at “the astonishingly rapid rate,” their new study found, of six to eight degrees per day. Not only did it reverse, it fluctuated. Rapid fluctuations occurred many times during the reversal, said Coe. “Enhanced external [magnetic] field activity . . . from the Sun might somehow cause the jumps.” (Coe, Prévot, and Camps, 1995) (Not by Fire but by Ice, Chapter 16)
And finally, the article asserts that “It is hard to know how a geomagnetic reversal would impact our modern-day civilization, but it is unlikely to spell disaster. Although the field provides essential protection from the sun’s powerful radiation, fossil records reveal no mass extinctions or increased radiation damage during past reversals. ”
This is so far off base that it would be laughable if it were not so serious.
Let’s look at the record.
The Gothenburg magnetic reversal of 11,500 years ago correlates with a huge mass extinction, when the mammoth, the mastodon, the sabre toothed cat, the short-fact bear, to name just a few unfortunate mammals, went extinct.
The Mono Lake magnetic reversal of 23,000 years ago correlates with a mass extinction.
The Lake Mungo magnetic reversal of 33,500 years ago correlates with a mass extinction. (Some studies even suggest that that is when the Neanderthal went extinct.)
Not only do magnetic reversals/excursions correlate with extinctions, many reversals occurred in sync with catastrophic glaciation. Here’s a chart showing those correlations.
When it comes to radiation, the records do show increased levels of carbon-14, beryllium and strontium at several magnetic reversals/excursions. (I think this is what causes the evolutionary leaps that I refer to “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps“.
And finally, several studies have shown that volcanic activity increases during magnetic reversals.
How anyone can say that a magnetic reversal is “unlikely to spell disaster” is beyond my comprehension. (Has anyone noticed that volcanic activity seems to be picking up?)
See entire article:
Thanks to Laurel for this link
“Sheesh,” says Laurel. “It’s happened a LOT faster than 1k years before now!”
I first posted about the SWARM findings back in July: