Scientists found a shocking discovery. The Earth's magnetic field is weakening.
The magnetic field is vital to life on our planet. It shields us from cosmic radiation and sun-emitted charged particles.
A vast area of decreased magnetic strength was found between Africa and South America, called the South Atlantic Anomaly. In just five years, it has formed a minimum intensity core.
Is the Earth shifting in reverse?
Scientists suspect that the weakening is a warning that the Earth is moving for a polar reversal. This is when the north and south poles swap positions, and that was the last time it occurred 780,000 years ago.
A team at the Europe Space Agency (ESA) made the discovery, pulling data from the Swarm constellation of the agency, which is a cluster of satellites.
The satellites are explicitly designed to detect and measure the different magnetic signals that causing Earth's magnetic field, allowing experts to spot vulnerable areas.
"The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is [thriving]," Jürgen Matzka from the German Research Center for Geosciences said.
"The challenge now is to understand the processes in Earth's core driving these changes," he said in a statement.
For years, the weakened field has been on the experts' radar - they know it has lost nine percent of its intensity over the past 200 years.
Nevertheless, there has recently established an even greater region of vulnerability between Africa and South America.
Researchers from the UK and Denmark have recently spotted speculation of a pole reversal.
Evidence has indicated that the team found that the north pole shifted closer to Siberia at a frenzied rate due to two writhing lobes of magnetic energy in the center of the Earth.
Between 1999 to 2005, it went between moving nine miles at most to as much as 37 miles in a year, suggests the study released this month.
In comparison, Ciaran Beggan of the British Geological Survey told MailOnline the southern magnetic pole has scarcely changed much over the past 100 years.
Earth's magnetic field weakens
After analyzing data collected by Swarm, researchers found that the strength has diminished from around 24,000 nanoteslas to 22,000 between 1970 and 2020.
What's more surprising, however, is that the phenomenon has developed and pushed westward at a speed of about 12 mph.
However, the team found that a center of limited strength has developed southwest of Africa in just the last five years. The results indicate that the South Atlantic Anomaly could break into two separate cells.
The change doesn't just happen immediately but happens gradually throughout a couple of hundred years.
And when this happens, multiple magnetic poles from north and south are popping up around the Earth.
One explanation for the weakened field is that the planet could be going to a pole reversal that happened in the past. The researchers suggest 'we are long overdue' because it happens 'only every 250,000 years.'
Researchers say Earth's South Atlantic Anomaly doesn't have enough direct proof of magnetism in Earth's past.
The team says the phenomenon isn't a reason to sound the alarm. However, satellites and spacecraft operating in the weakened region can experience technical malfunctions.
"Forecasting the future is challenging, and we cannot be sure," Lead researcher Phil Livermore, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Leeds, told Live Science.