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Sun's rays to roast Earth as poles flip
The Observer (U.K.) ^ | 11/10/2002 | Robin McKie

Posted on 11/09/2002 5:59:37 PM PST by Pokey78

Earth's magnetic field - the force that protects us from deadly radiation bursts from outer space - is weakening dramatically.

Scientists have discovered that its strength has dropped precipitously over the past two centuries and could disappear over the next 1,000 years.

The effects could be catastrophic. Powerful radiation bursts, which normally never touch the atmosphere, would heat up its upper layers, triggering climatic disruption. Navigation and communication satellites, Earth's eyes and ears, would be destroyed and migrating animals left unable to navigate.

'Earth's magnetic field has disappeared many times before - as a prelude to our magnetic poles flipping over, when north becomes south and vice versa,' said Dr Alan Thomson of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh.

'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon.'

For more than 100 years, scientists have noted the strength of Earth's magnetic field has been declining, but have disagreed about interpretations. Some said its drop was a precursor to reversal, others argued it merely indicated some temporary variation in field strength has been occurring.

But now Gauthier Hulot of the Paris Geophysical Institute has discovered Earth's magnetic field seems to be disappearing most alarmingly near the poles, a clear sign that a flip may soon take place.

Using satellite measurements of field variations over the past 20 years, Hulot plotted the currents of molten iron that generate Earth's magnetism deep underground and spotted huge whorls near the poles.

Hulot believes these vortices rotate in a direction that reinforces a reverse magnetic field, and as they grow and proliferate these eddies will weaken the dominant field: the first steps toward a new polarity, he says.

And as Scientific American reports this week, this interpretation has now been backed up by computer simulation studies.

How long a reversal might last is a matter of scientific controversy, however. Records of past events, embedded in iron minerals in ancient lava beds, show some can last for thousands of years - during which time the planet will have been exposed to batterings from solar radiation. On the other hand, other researchers say some flips may have lasted only a few weeks.

Exactly what will happen when Earth's magnetic field disappears prior to its re-emergence in a reversed orientation is also difficult to assess. Compasses would point to the wrong pole - a minor inconvenience. More importantly, low-orbiting satellites would be exposed to electromagnetic batterings, wrecking them.

In addition, many species of migrating animals and birds - from swallows to wildebeests - rely on innate abilities to track Earth's magnetic field. Their fates are impossible to gauge.

As to humans, our greatest risk would come from intense solar radiation bursts. Normally these are contained by the planet's magnetic field in space. However, if it disappears, particle storms will start to batter the atmosphere.

'These solar particles can have profound effects,' said Dr Paul Murdin, of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. 'On Mars, when its magnetic field failed permanently billions of years ago, it led to its atmosphere being boiled off. On Earth, it will heat up the upper atmosphere and send ripples round the world with enormous, unpredictable effects on the climate.'

It is unlikely that humans could do much. Burrowing thousands of miles into solid rock to set things right would stretch the technological prowess of our descendants to bursting point, though such limitations do not worry film scriptwriters. Paramount's latest sci-fi thriller, The Core - directed by Englishman Jon Amiel, and starring Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart - depicts a world beset by just such a polar reversal, with radiation sweeping the planet.

The solution, according to the film, to be released next year, involves scientists drilling into Earth's mantle to set off a nuclear blast that will halt the reversal.

Given that temperatures at such depths rival those of the Sun's surface, such a task would seem impossible - except, of course, in Hollywood.

robin.mckie@observer.co.uk


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: catastrophism; geomagnetism; georeactor; jmarvinherndon; poleshift
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And the liberals and Euro-snots will blame this on President Bush.
1 posted on 11/09/2002 5:59:37 PM PST by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
France just surrendered.

Yay, I got it in first.
2 posted on 11/09/2002 6:00:48 PM PST by Mike Fieschko
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To: Pokey78
Women, minorities hardest hit.
3 posted on 11/09/2002 6:01:53 PM PST by GodBlessRonaldReagan
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To: Pokey78
Will this impact school lunch programs?
4 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:10 PM PST by shadowman99
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To: Pokey78
And the evil corporate giants.
5 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:44 PM PST by fleur-de-lis
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To: Pokey78
An AHHHHHHH. WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!! bump
6 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:57 PM PST by Tribune7
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Pokey78
I'm waiting, BREATHLESSLY for Algore's reflection on this. Wasn't he the one who wanted to put a big nirror/satellite in space so that we could observe our world? Maybe we could add a couple of big solar-powered electo-magnets above the poles to stabalize them? Time for the tin-hat brigade!
8 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:14 PM PST by SES1066
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To: Pokey78
Maybe an asteroid will slam us first.
9 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:52 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Pokey78
I guess it is time to pack up and leave this stinkin rock.
10 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:55 PM PST by KevinDavis
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To: Pokey78
CURSES - Editorial correction to Nirror!
I'm waiting, BREATHLESSLY for Algore's reflection on this. Wasn't he the one who wanted to put a big mirror/satellite in space so that we could observe our world? Maybe we could add a couple of big solar-powered electo-magnets above the poles to stabalize them? Time for the tin-hat brigade!
11 posted on 11/09/2002 6:08:24 PM PST by SES1066
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To: Pokey78
Heh, anyone with a simple understanding of electricity and magnetism could debunk this garbage. Its amazing how often it crops up though.

Leave it to a brit to write about it.
12 posted on 11/09/2002 6:11:03 PM PST by DaisyCutter
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To: Pokey78
I just got over the Global Warming scare & now THIS! Rozanne Rozanadana was right "its always something".
13 posted on 11/09/2002 6:11:55 PM PST by Ditter
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To: Pokey78
Hell, sleep next to a nuke reactor for a year:
http://lokibob.bravepages.com/greenland.html

Thats when you need the tin foil and lead lined BVD's.
14 posted on 11/09/2002 6:12:37 PM PST by Lokibob
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To: Pokey78
All due in fact to Hillary's magnetic personality. If we put her on one pole, and Bill on the other, all would stabilize.
15 posted on 11/09/2002 6:13:51 PM PST by blackdog
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To: Pokey78
'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon.'


Really,Reversals happen every 250K years but it has not happen in the last million. Boy that makes sense.
16 posted on 11/09/2002 6:14:34 PM PST by Rodm
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To: Pokey78
Dang it, I warned you people about Y3K, but was anybody listening? Noooooooo....
17 posted on 11/09/2002 6:15:05 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Tribune7
Tin foil hat time, I always suspected that Atlantis is under one of the poles due to a pole flip. There is an accurate map that was found detailing the actual land mass that is buried under the miles of ice on the north pole (the actual land mass looks nothing like the ice sheet that covers it). The map is hundreds of years old and scientist weren't able to verify accuracy of the map until this century. It is an unsolved mystery how the map could exist. So, maybe crust flipping is not so strange afterall.
18 posted on 11/09/2002 6:16:06 PM PST by BushCountry
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To: Timesink
OOH! OOH! let me guess.

Is it because the satellites are not in the upper atmosphere? Could it be that the satellites are in orbit above the upper atmosphere and thus exposed to those cosmic rays and operating still?

Will Earth survive?
Will Kevin and Fiona be married before they find out they are brother and sister, separated at a young age when Fiona was stolen by a roving band of crazed DUers?

Film at eleven.

19 posted on 11/09/2002 6:16:53 PM PST by woofer
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To: Pokey78
OK. Should I buy, or sell stock? I always get confused when the poles flip!



20 posted on 11/09/2002 6:18:32 PM PST by lawdude
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