Earth’s magnetic field is far from stable and often experiences major changes that derail the poles. There have been quite a number of polar reversals in the past and one such reversal may happen in the near future. When unforeseen forces go through massive shifts, it is bound to leave repercussions on the entire planet.
Magnetic Field and Magnetic Reversal
The magnetic field that envelopes the earth works as a constant shield against harmful solar radiation. It also prevents charged particles from entering the atmosphere of the earth. However, the protection provided by this field weakens considerably when it undergoes changes.
At these times, even though the magnetic charge never becomes absolutely nil, it may drop to a meager 10% of its average strength. The magnetic field becomes scattered. Sometimes the equator becomes the center of the field and sometimes more than one “north” and “south” poles come into existence, The Conversation reported.
However, the erratic behavior of the magnetic field is separated by intervals that are millions of years long. Temporary reversals may also take place between these intervals. During these incomplete reversals, the magnetic poles may briefly swap places, travelling across the equator before returning to its original places. The last original reversal happened 780,000 years ago, while a temporary reversal took place 41,000 years ago.
How Magnetic Reversal Affects Humans
Shifts in the magnetic field weakens its shielding capabilities, which opens up multiple windows for solar radiation to enter the earth’s surface. Exposure to solar flares may damage man-made satellites and devices that run on electricity. Prolonged weakening of the magnetic shield gives rise to geomagnetic storms, which can collapse the economy of a nation.
Some of the notable geomagnetic storms that have occurred in the recent past are the Halloween Storm of 2003 in Sweden and the Carrington event of 1859. In Sweden, the storm caused electricity grids to be knocked off and flights to be rerouted. It also caused communication blackouts in many areas and satellites to go offline. The Carrington event was far worse, however, raising havoc up to the Caribbean.
NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has recorded high-energy solar emissions on the surface of the sun. “These particles must travel some 300,000 miles within about five minutes of the eruption to produce this light,” said Nicola Omodei, a researcher at Stanford University in California, reported NASA. At present, the distance covered by these emissions are comparative harmless when it comes directly impacting earth. However, solar radiation with lightning speed may reach our planet in the future.
There is no definitive way of predicting how modern life would be hampered by such a storm today. Nevertheless, some scientists have suggested that it may lead to cataclysmic volcanism. Under such a catastrophic natural disaster, mass extinction of human life becomes a possibility. Regardless, modern civilization may revert back to the Stone Age for sure in the absence of electricity or internet.