Will shifting geomagnetic field be Earth’s nemesis?

September 8th, 2008 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Sep 8 (RIA Novosti) The recent trouble with the International Space Station (ISS), caused by simple computer virus capable of stealing logins and passwords for computer games only, was a minor incident compared to possible environmental changes that could make space flights impossible.They could also cripple aviation and television, and even put terrestrial life at risk.

It is about the Earth’s geomagnetic field, changing rapidly and frequently. Scientists from the Institute for Geomagnetism at the Russian Academy of Sciences say the Earth’s magnet poles are gradually drifting towards the Equator, with the field intensity falling slowly but steadily.

The latter is expected to reach zero point in about 2,000 years, which would be a disaster for living organisms. The rate of changes happening to the planet’s liquid core, however, could mean that the polarity shift is going to happen much sooner.

The movement of the liquid and the solid parts of the Earth’s core generate an electric potential, making the planet a sort of electric generator that keeps things stable.

If a hundred years ago somebody said that the South and the North could switch places, he would be definitely taken to a mental hospital.

In 2001, an international polar expedition revealed that since 1994 the North magnetic pole shifted around 300 km.

Currently, it is drifting 40 km a year from the Canadian Arctic shelf towards Russia’s Severnaya Zemlya islands.

Scientists predict the North Pole could eventually be found in South Atlantic.

An extensive anomaly area with the magnetic field intensity at around 60 percent of the predicted value shows the forecast is likely to score.

In the recent 20 years, the planet’s magnetic field intensity has decreased by 1.7 percent, and in South Atlantic by 10 percent. In the last 200 years, the Earth’s magnetic field has seen a 10 percent decrease in intensity.

What is the danger, after all? Scientists say changes in the magnetic field would lead to the anti-radiation protection weakening, with space flights becoming impossible and energy-dependent systems, including mobile phones and satellites, failing.

Then, solar and space radiation would affect the genome of the organisms inhabiting the Earth, causing some of them to become extinct, and others to have a much greater degree of mutations.

Taking into account the solar flares, accompanied by extremely powerful electrojet currents, life is likely to become impossible on the Earth before the full magnetic field collapses.

That sounds terrible. But may be there’s no need to dramatise and hopefully we will not face giant blood-thirsty killer ants from Hollywood horror movies.

Recent reports say that in the last 90 million years, the magnetic poles changed around every 500,000 years, with no total extinction or mass mutations of living organisms taking place and the atmosphere remaining a reliable guarantor of security of the Earth’s biosphere.

The processes are especially hazardous for computer systems, which are vital for the modern economy. Even today, magnetic storms caused by solar activity inflict huge losses to mankind. A decrease in the Earth’s magnetic field intensity would boost the power of magnetic storms and therefore cripple flight connection, with avionics failing.

Besides that, any flight by plane would be dangerous to man. Today, in the low-pressure upper atmosphere, the effect of radiation is becoming more marked. In 2000, a Euro Commission directive relegated pilots and flight attendants to high risk jobs.

The geomagnetic field keeps protecting us during flights so far, but what lies ahead?

Scientists have not established so far if the changes happening to the geomagnetic field are reversible. Nobody has ever found out why the Earth’s history has seen times when the magnet poles remained in place as long as 50 million years. May be, things will turn out well, anyway?

Related Stories

    Posted in Uncategorized |