Earth's magnetic field is a crucial part of the planet's system. It not only makes many human activities possible, but it also creates a protective cocoon around the planet shielding it from deadly solar radiation.
Understanding The Earth's Magnetic System
The secrets of the magnetic field lies deep under the surface, where liquid nickel and iron are churning together in the Earth's outer core.
As Business Insider explains, the undulating movement of the liquid metals in the outer core creates the magnetic field, which is anchored by the north and south magnetic poles.
When there are changes in the liquid metals' distribution, it triggers changes in the magnetic field as well. The shifting flow of the metals beneath the surface tugs on the magnetic field, affecting the migration of the north magnetic pole, which has been moving at an accelerated pace in the past 40 years at 30 miles per year.
The nature of the magnetic field makes it challenging for scientists to predict its behavior and evolution, which is necessary for navigational systems and other human activities.
Geomagnetic jerks, which refer to the abrupt changes in the Earth's magnetic field, make it even tougher for scientists to keep track of the field's movement. Now, new research provides a new model for these unpredictable shifts.
Predicting The Erratic Behavior Of The Magnetic North
In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers use supercomputers to simulate the conditions of the Earth's core and predict the evolution of the magnetic field. Findings offer a potential explanation to the unexpected jerks to the magnetic field.
Study authors and geophysicists Julien Aubert and Christopher Finlay developed the computer simulation with 4 million hours' worth of calculations.
While the team was already aware how heat in the core moving outward affects the magnetic field, they found that there are occasional pockets of hot, light liquid iron in the core. When these pockets are much hotter and lighter than surrounding liquid, they rise rapidly and trigger magnetic waves that cause the sudden geomagnetic jerks.
Aubert and Finlay believe their computer model can help predict geomagnetic jerks and their effects on the evolution of the magnetic field.
"Within the next few years, we envision that it should indeed be possible for our groups ... to capture past jerks and predict the future ones with improved accuracy," Aubert explains to Business Insider.