The weakening of the magnetic field is causing technical disturbances in some satellites orbiting Earth, among other things.
Scientists are using data from the European Space Agency’s Swarm constellation to improve our understanding of this area, which is known as the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly.’
Earth’s magnetic field protects humanity from space radiation and super-charged particles emanating from the sun.
This field is far from static and varies both in strength and direction. For example, recent studies have shown that the position of the north magnetic pole is changing rapidly.
Over the last 200 years, the magnetic field has lost around 9% of its strength on a global average. A large region of reduced magnetic intensity has developed between Africa and South America and is known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.
Over the past five years, a second centre of minimum intensity has emerged southwest of Africa — indicating that the South Atlantic Anomaly could split up into two separate cells.
According to the ESA, the magnetic field is generated by an extremely hot swirling liquid iron that comprises the planet’s outer core – which is about 3,000 kilometers under our feet.
The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is developing vigorously.
It has been speculated whether the current weakening of the field is a sign that Earth is heading for an imminent pole reversal – in which the north and south magnetic poles switch places.
Such events have occurred many times throughout the planet’s history and even though we are long overdue by the average rate at which these reversals take place (roughly every 250 000 years), the intensity dip in the South Atlantic occurring now is well within what is considered normal levels of fluctuations.
The mystery of the origin of the South Atlantic Anomaly has yet to be solved.
Source: Stillness in the Storm