You thought that Coronavirus was bad. Well maybe “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” as Ronald Reagan once famously remarked. In this first of an occasional series, we’ll be looking at some of the other threats, large and small, which may yet assail us after ol’Charlie Corona virus has toddled off.
And we’re going to start with THE POLAR MAGNETIC FLIP
As some of you will recall, the earth’s core is made of liquid iron, slowly oozing around itself like a giant pot of raspberry jam. This sets up a huge magnetic field, with North at the top and south down at the bottom. This has advantages, like giving us auroral displays and protecting us from truly harmful doses of solar radiation. The bad side is- we have tuned all our compasses, navigation systems and satellites etc to it. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
So what’s the problem? Well, the magnetic field seems to “flip” every so often, so that north is south and south is north. It has done it 19 times in the last 5 million years, giving us an average of 263,157.8947368 years. That last bit after the decimal would take you to the middle of October, so you’d probably get your summer holidays in. Trouble is, the last flip was 780 000 years ago, and all experts agree they are totally unpredictable. Should we be worried?
According to the experts, the field is starting to weaken much faster than in the past-and it’s starting to move faster, too. (check out my references below) So something is happening, it’s just a question of what.
One thing known is that the flips are not sudden; they seem to need a chaotic period of between 1000 and 8000 years to settle down. During that time there may be up to eight magnetic poles. Or none at all. Nobody knows.
What would be the consequences of all this? Well if solar radiation starts leaking through, you must expect an increase in things like skin cancer and other disease, and presumably increased mutation rates in living things. Could that mean more bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics?
The real damage would be to our infrastructure. There could be enormous outages in power systems, with loss of mass transit and the ability to store and distribute food. All of our navigation systems for ships, planes and GPS satellites would have to be recalibrated, to say the very least. The effects on animal migration-things like birds, whales, etc. could lead to the collapse of whole ecosystems.
I shall leave you with two bits of good news. At least it hasn’t happened during the coronavirus crisis. And there is no evidence that magnetic flips lead to mass extinctions.
#geomagneticreversal #geomagneticflip #solarradiation