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Scientists Discover Jet Stream In Earth’s Molten Iron Core Using Satellite Data

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A jet stream is running within the Earth's core whereby molten iron is flowing westwards in a 420 km wide river at an average speed of 40 km per year.

This was confirmed by latest satellite data by the Swarm satellites deployed by European Space Agency. Three swarm satellites launched in 2013 are analyzing the magnetic signals from Earth's crust, core, mantle, ionosphere, oceans, and magnetosphere.

The details are published in a research paper, "An accelerating high-latitude jet in Earth's core," published in Nature Geoscience.

"They are providing our sharpest x-ray image yet of the core. We've not only seen this jet stream clearly for the first time, but we understand why it's there," said lead researcher Phil Livermore of the University of Leeds.

Livermore likened the accelerating molten iron circling the North Pole to jet streams in the atmosphere.

Core Analysis

Given that the Earth's core is some 3,000 kilometers deep, scientists have been relying on the planet's magnetic field as an indicator to study the core.

Swarm satellites reveal that jet stream might be moving at speeds more than 40 kilometers per year. That is thousand times faster than the speed with which Earth's tectonic plates move.

Scientists believe the iron river is flowing westwards under Alaska and Siberia. They also believe the jet stream can answer the mystery concerning pockets of concentrated magnetic fields in the northern hemisphere.

"This jet of liquid iron is moving at about fifty kilometers per year," explained Chris Finlay of Denmark's National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.

Finlay was addressing the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco

However, there are no credible answers why the jet stream is accelerating. The molten jet's speed has reportedly trebled since the year 2000.

"Further surprises are likely. The magnetic field is forever changing, and this could even make the jet stream switch direction," noted Rune Floberghagen, who is ESA's Swarm mission manager.

 "It's likely that the jet stream has been in play for hundreds of millions of years," added Leed University;s Livermore.

It is hoped that the swarm satellites' data may reveal why Earth's magnetic field has weakened amidst speculation that a polarity reversal is on cards with the North Pole becoming South and South becoming North.

GPS Signal Drop

Meanwhile, the real reason behind Global Positioning System (GPS) blackouts in low-orbit GPS satellites has been explained.

There had been complaints about blackouts intensifying over the equator between South America and Africa. According to scientists with ESA, "thunderstorms" are behind this and it happens in the ionosphere region of Earth's upper atmosphere, ionized by solar and cosmic radiations.

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