Earth's magnetic field showing signs of significant weakening

Earth's magnetic field showing signs of significant weakening

The first set of high-resolution results from ESA’s three-satellite Swarm constellation reveals the most recent changes in the magnetic field that protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth.

Magnetic field is in a permanent state of flux. Magnetic north wanders, and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips so that a compass would point south instead of north. Moreover, the strength of the magnetic field constantly changes – and it is currently showing signs of significant weakening. (ESA)

Measurements made by Swarm over the past six months confirm the general trend of the field’s weakening, with the most dramatic declines over the Western Hemisphere. But in other areas, such as the southern Indian Ocean, the magnetic field has strengthened since January.

The field is particularly weak over the South Atlantic Ocean – known as the South Atlantic Anomaly and the latest measurements confirm the movement of magnetic North towards Siberia.

The weak field has indirectly caused many temporary satellite ‘hiccups’ (called Single Event Upsets) as the satellites are exposed to strong radiation over this area. (ESA)

This animation shows changes in Earth’s magnetic field from January to June 2014 as measured by ESA’s Swarm trio of satellites:

Video copyright: ESA/Dot2Dot

‘Snapshot’ of the main magnetic field at Earth’s surface as of June 2014 based on Swarm data. The measurements are dominated by the magnetic contribution from Earth’s core (about 95%) while the contributions from other sources (the mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere) make up the rest. Red represents areas where the magnetic field is stronger, while blues show areas where it is weaker. image copyright: ESA/DTU Space

Swarm is ESA's first Earth observation constellation of satellites. The three identical satellites are launched together on one rocket. Two satellites orbit almost side-by-side at the same altitude – initially at about 460 km, descending to around 300 km over the lifetime of the mission. The third satellite is in a higher orbit of 530 km and at a slightly different inclination. The satellites’ orbits drift, resulting in the upper satellite crossing the path of the lower two at an angle of 90° in the third year of operations.

The different orbits along with satellites’ various instruments optimise the sampling in space and time, distinguishing between the effects of different sources and strengths of magnetism. Image copyright: ESA/AOES Medialab

Swarm was launched in November 2013 and is providing unprecedented insights into the complex workings of Earth’s magnetic field. The objective of the Swarm mission is to provide the best-ever survey of the geomagnetic field and its temporal evolution as well as the electric field in the atmosphere using a constellation of 3 identical satellites carrying sophisticated magnetometers and electric field instruments.

Its first results were presented today, June 19th, at the ‘Third Swarm Science Meeting’ in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“These initial results demonstrate the excellent performance of Swarm,” said Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s Swarm Mission Manager. “With unprecedented resolution, the data also exhibit Swarm’s capability to map fine-scale features of the magnetic field.”

Over the coming months, scientists will analyse the data to unravel the magnetic contributions from other sources, namely the mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere.

This will provide new insight into many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside our planet to space weather triggered by solar activity. In turn, this information will yield a better understanding of why the magnetic field is weakening. 

Magnetic field:

#1 An introduction

Video courtesy of ESA

#2 Why it matters

Video courtesy of ESA

#3 Learning more with Swarm

Video courtesy of ESA

Read more:

41 000 years ago, a complete and rapid reversal of the geomagnetic field occurred. As a consequence, the Earth nearly completely lost its protection shield against hard cosmic rays, leading to a significantly increased radiation exposure, a new study led by...

A growing number of scientists are starting to worry the magnetic pole shift, that seems to be underway, is the real culprit behind climate change. Not man made air pollution, not the Sun, not the underground volcanic activity heating up the oceans, but the slow...

Featured image copyright ESA/ATG medialab

Comments

ohilton576 1 year ago

CFC induced ozone depletion accelerated from the 70's, which in turn decreased protection from solar radiation, which in turn ramped up global warming. Solar radiation induced global warming is multiplied the further towards the crust we go. Increased mantle temperatures increase rate of change of magnetic columns. Also change in magnetic columns is caused by increased electromagnetic interference from increased exposure to solar radiation and cosmic rays, which in turn destabilises magnetic structure further. Man is responsible for catalysing the inevitable. The consequence is there mass extinction. But then again mankind doomed himself to extinction by the very way he evolved into becoming the dominant species on earth.

chris 1 year ago

28/9/2015

óz 2 years ago

From what i have been studying this is the first time that humans have been through a poler shift. So the effects to people is going to be very damaging both to our own DNA as well as the way our brains interact with magnetic fields. This has been a correlation to the fall in magnectic field strength and the incress in human mental stablity as well as animal life as well. This can be seen in massive die off of birds, mammals and ocean life as well as viruse mutations. This could also incress the wether fenomenon as well as incressing the earths temprature becous of more radio active particals hitting of the earths outer crust. I have come to the same conclusion as Jamal Shrair.

Nick name 186973 2 years ago

The earth magnetic field movement is do to an incoming decay star which I list as 165.32k. It will probably arrive in 2024

Jamal Shrair 2 years ago

Increasing Evidence To My New Physics Theory: I have been arguing for years that the earth is in the final phase of changing its magnetic field. This fact is obvious from the increasing number of earthqukaes and volcanic eruption. I have stated repeatedly that the reason for the climate change and global warming is heat increase at the earth’s core. When the heat at the earth’s core will reach its critical level the earth will change its magnetic field and that will be accompanied by the eruption of huge number of volcanoes including super volcanoes. Now please see these latest news: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140707122659-97196790-increasing-evidence-to-my-new-physics-theory?trk=prof-post

John Matthew Lane 2 years ago

I would like to know if you have any new news on the planet-x situation 8/23/2014 or about that time. I think I'm worrying myself but not sure could you help me in anyway.

Adonai (@John Matthew Lane) 2 years ago

Don't worry about that.

Donb 2 years ago

How low does it have to become before the amount of cosmic radiation being let through becomes lethal the all living things on the planet? I imagine that we will start to see mutations in the animals with short gestation periods in the very near future!

Davidski 2 years ago

Hollywood will have a ball with this one.

wizard 2 years ago

These are all animations, where are the actual images.

Defiant 2 years ago

Must be a result of Global Warming!

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