Tech & Science The Earth’s magnetic field surrounds our planet like an invisible force field—protecting life from harmful solar radiation by deflecting charged particles away. Far from being constant, this field is continuously changing. Indeed, our planet’s history includes at least several hundred global magnetic reversals, where north and south magnetic poles swap places. So when’s the next one happening and how will it affect life on Earth? During a reversal the magnetic field won’t be zero, but will assume a weaker and more complex form. It may fall to 10 percent of the present-day strength and have magnetic poles at the equator or even the simultaneous existence of multiple “north” and “south” magnetic poles. Geomagnetic reversals occur a few times every million years on average. However, the interval between reversals is very irregular and can range up to tens of millions of years. There can also be temporary and incomplete reversals, known as events and excursions, in which the magnetic poles move away from the geographic poles—perhaps even crossing the equator—before returning back to their original locations. The last full reversal, the Brunhes-Matuyama, occurred around 780,000 years ago. A temporary reversal, the Laschamp event, occurred around 41,000 years ago. It… Read full this story
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