Earth Has Another Magnetic Field Cycle, That Has Major Effects


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Earth Has Another Magnetic Field Cycle, That Has Major Effects

Earth Has Another Magnetic Field Cycle, That Has Major Effects

Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth’s interior out into space, where it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of a mixture of molten iron and nickel in the Earth’s outer core: these convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo.

The magnitude of the Earth’s magnetic field at its surface ranges from 25 to 65 μT (0.25 to 0.65 gauss). As an approximation, it is represented by a field of a magnetic dipole currently tilted at an angle of about 11 degrees with respect to Earth’s rotational axis, as if there were an enormous bar magnet placed at that angle through the center of the Earth. The North geomagnetic pole actually represents the South pole of the Earth’s magnetic field, and conversely the South geomagnetic pole corresponds to the north pole of Earth’s magnetic field (because opposite magnetic poles attract and the north end of a magnet, like a compass needle, points toward the Earth’s South magnetic field, i.e., the North geomagnetic pole near the Geographic North Pole). As of 2015, the North geomagnetic pole was located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada.

While the North and South magnetic poles are usually located near the geographic poles, they slowly and continuously move over geological time scales, but sufficiently slowly for ordinary compasses to remain useful for navigation. However, at irregular intervals averaging several hundred thousand years, the Earth’s field reverses and the North and South Magnetic Poles respectively, abruptly switch places. These reversals of the geomagnetic poles leave a record in rocks that are of value to paleomagnetists in calculating geomagnetic fields in the past. Such information in turn is helpful in studying the motions of continents and ocean floors in the process of plate tectonics.


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