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Home Science Earth's magnetic field flipping linked to extinctions 42,000 years ago

Earth’s magnetic field flipping linked to extinctions 42,000 years ago

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Earth’s magnetic field is most concentrated on the north and south poles


The most up-to-date reversal of Earth’s magnetic field might have been as latest as 42,000 years ago, in accordance to new evaluation of fossilised tree rings. This flip of the magnetic poles would have been devastating, creating excessive climate and presumably main to the extinction of enormous mammals.

Earth’s magnetic field extends into house and is most concentrated on the north and south poles. These magnetic poles wander and sometimes reverse round each 200,000 to 300,000 years, however we have now little proof on how this impacts our planet.


Alan Cooper on the South Australian Museum in Adelaide and his colleagues have now supplied some solutions. They got here up with probably the most correct date but of Earth’s final magnetic field reversal known as the Laschamp occasion, which they estimate occurred between 41,560 and 41,050 years ago and lasted lower than 1000 years.

The workforce calculated this estimate utilizing radiocarbon evaluation of tree rings from an historic, fossilised kauri tree (Agathis australis) preserved in northern New Zealand wetlands.

“The tree lived right through the Laschamps and we used the shift in radiocarbon, carbon-14, in the atmosphere to detect exactly when the magnetic field collapsed,” says Cooper.

The Earth’s magnetosphere – the area across the planet dominated by Earth’s magnetic field – weakens when the magnetic poles reverse. Cooper and his workforce estimate the Earth’s magnetic field was simply 6 per cent of present ranges in the course of the Laschamp occasion.

When the magnetic field weakens, cosmic rays enter the environment and rework carbon atoms right into a radioactive type known as carbon-14. By measuring the degrees of carbon-14 in every tree ring of the kauri tree, they have been in a position to precisely date the Laschamp occasion.

They then used local weather modelling to discover that a number of main modifications coincided with the Laschamp occasion. The weakened magnetic field allowed extra ionising radiation from photo voltaic flares and cosmic rays from house to attain Earth.

“These damage the ozone layer and ultraviolet light comes in at very high levels,” says Cooper. This would have brought about excessive climate circumstances, together with lightning, excessive temperatures and plenty of daylight – which can have been tough for organisms to adapt to.

“These extreme environmental changes may have caused, or at least contributed to, extinction events including those of large mammals in Australia and the Neanderthals in Europe,” says Paula Reimer at Queen’s University Belfast, who was not concerned within the analysis. Megafauna throughout Australia and Tasmania – prehistoric large mammals that existed within the Late Pleistocene – and Neanderthals in Europe went extinct across the similar time because the magnetic pole reversal, 42,000 years ago.

The north pole has been transferring spasmodically over the previous century, drifting round a kilometre per 12 months, says Cooper. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to happen again, but if it did it would be absolutely catastrophic,” he says.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8677

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