If this were on your worries list for 2020, the Earth's magnetic field would not reverse itself and undo its wonky, eccentric behavior. Strange activity in the South Atlantic magnetic field can be traced back to 11 million years ago. Researchers have found that it is unlikely to be due to any future reversal of the Earth's magnetic field.
The magnetic poles of Earth, which serve as the foundation of our navigation, are moving actively. For a few hundred thousand years, the magnetic field reverses its polarity. The magnetic North Pole remains at the physical South Pole. The last turnaround happened 770,000 years ago. However, a magnetic field reversal could impact navigation, satellites, and communications if it happens during our lifetime.
Magnetic field's attitude problem, yes?
The problematic, unpredictable behavior in the South Atlantic region causes technical disturbances in Earth's orbiting satellites and spacecraft, which has left experts baffled.
The region is a scientist-to-scientist discussion, some of whom wonder where it comes from, and whether it could signify the field's complete weakening and even an imminent pole reversal.
The magnetic field on Earth protects our atmosphere from the solar wind, a stream of charged particles coming from the sun. The geomagnetic field is not constant in force and direction and is capable of flipping or reversing itself.
The South Atlantic Phenomenon is a region that extends from Africa to South America, where the magnetic field on Earth slowly weakens.
Will it undo its attitude problem? Probably not.
Here's the good news: In new research published at the University of Liverpool, they prove that the South Atlantic Anomaly of today is a recurring feature and is unlikely to be linked to any impending magnetic field reversal Earth.
Researchers analyzed igneous rocks from the island of Saint Helena, a tiny volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic and located in the South Atlantic Anomaly.
Lead author Yael Engbers, a doctoral student at the University of Liverpool, said that the recent study provides the first long-term analysis of the magnetic field in this region dating back millions of years.
"It reveals that the anomaly in the magnetic field in the South Atlantic is not a one-off; similar anomalies existed eight to 11 million years ago," he said.
Engbers noted that the irregular behavior of the South Atlantic region's geomagnetic field has been shown on such a long timescale. The pattern suggests that the South Atlantic Anomaly is a recurring feature and probably not a sign of an impending reversal.
Previous research has revealed the irregularity has existed for a thousand years or more. The Liverpool team was able to look even further back in time.
"The South Atlantic Anomaly and anomalous seismic features in the lowermost mantle and the outer core," Engbers added. "This brings us closer to linking behaviour of the geomagnetic field directly to features of the Earth's interior," he added.