Just as I’ve been saying all along!
“Imagine the world waking up one morning to discover that all compasses pointed south instead of north,” says a new press release from the University of California – Berkeley (14 Oct 14).
“That’s It’s not as bizarre as it sounds,” the press release continues.
Less than a human lifetime
A new study by a team of scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that the last magnetic reversal 786,000 years ago actually happened very quickly, in less than 100 years — roughly a human lifetime.
The rapid flip, much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought, comes as new measurements show the planet’s magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal and could drop to zero in a few thousand years.
“It’s amazing how rapidly we see that reversal,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Courtney Sprain. “The paleomagnetic data are very well done. This is one of the best records we have so far of what happens during a reversal and how quickly these reversals can happen.”
Sprain and Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and a UC Berkeley professor-in- residence of earth and planetary science, are coauthors of the study, which will be published in the November issue of Geophysical Journal International and is now available online.
Earth’s magnetic field weakening 10 times faster than normal
The discovery comes as new evidence indicates that the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing 10 times faster than normal, leading some geophysicists to predict a reversal within a few thousand years.
I previously posted about our magnetic field decreasing 10 times faster than normal here:
Just for the record, I think the reversal will come far, far sooner than “a few thousand years.”
Today, such a reversal could potentially wreak havoc with our electrical grid, generating currents that might take it down, the press release continues.
I maintain that it will also generate electrotelluric currents – electric currents coursing through the earth and the oceans.
Flip could affect electrical grid, cancer rates
And since Earth’s magnetic field protects life from energetic particles from the sun and cosmic rays, both of which can cause genetic mutations, a weakening or temporary loss of the field before a permanent reversal could increase cancer rates. The danger to life would be even greater if flips were preceded by long periods of unstable magnetic behavior.
Did you catch that? Earth’s magnetic field protects life from energetic particles from the sun and cosmic rays, both of which can cause genetic mutations.
“We should be thinking more about what the biologic effects would be,” Renne said.
Dating ash deposits from windward volcanoes
The new finding is based on measurements of the magnetic field alignment in layers of ancient lake sediments now exposed in the Sulmona basin of the Apennine Mountains east of Rome, Italy. The lake sediments are interbedded with ash layers erupted from the Roman volcanic province, a large area of volcanoes upwind of the former lake that includes periodically erupting volcanoes near Sabatini, Vesuvius and the Alban Hills.
Italian researchers led by Leonardo Sagnotti of Rome’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology measured the magnetic field directions frozen into the sediments as they accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake.
Because the lake sediments were deposited at a high and steady rate over a 10,000-year period, the team was able to interpolate the date of the layer showing the magnetic reversal, called the Matuyama-Brunhes transition, at approximately 786,000 years ago. This date is far more precise than that from previous studies, which placed the reversal between 770,000 and 795,000 years ago.
“What’s incredible is that you go from reverse polarity to a field that is normal with essentially nothing in between, which means it had to have happened very quickly, probably in less than 100 years,” said Renne. “We don’t know whether the next reversal will occur as suddenly as this one did, but we also don’t know that it won’t.”
Unstable magnetic field preceded 180-degree flip
The magnetic record the Italian-led team obtained shows that the sudden 180-degree flip of the field was preceded by a period of instability that spanned more than 6,000 years. The instability included two intervals of low magnetic field strength that lasted about 2,000 years each. Rapid changes in field orientations may have occurred within the first interval of low strength. The full magnetic polarity reversal — that is, the final and very rapid flip to what the field is today — happened toward the end of the most recent interval of low field strength.
No documented catastrophes associated with past reversals?
The article insists that “there are no documented catastrophes associated with past reversals, despite much searching in the geologic and biologic record,” and it barely mentions genetic mutations.
It also ignores magnetic excursions.
As I said in a recent post (“Earth’s Impending Magnetic Flip” – Scientific American), a magnetic excursion refers to those times in the past when the earth’s magnetic field temporarily headed south. Sometimes it began fluctuating and then settled down. Sometimes it moved part way south and then moved back north again. Sometimes it moved all the way south and then back north.
There have been many magnetic reversals/excursions during the last 780,000 years. To name a few are the Gothenburg, the Mono Lake, the Lake Mungo, the Laschamp, the Blake, Biwa I, Biwa II, Biwa III, Emperor, Big Lost and Delta. And many more magnetic reversals/excursions have probably occurred thee past 780,000 years that scientists have not yet identified.
No documented catastrophes?
What are they thinking?
Let’s look at the record.
The Gothenburg magnetic reversal of 11,500 years ago correlates with a huge mass extinction, when the mammoth, the mastodon, the sabre toothed cat, the short-fact bear, to name just a few unfortunate mammals, went extinct.
The Mono Lake magnetic reversal of 23,000 years ago correlates with a mass extinction.
The Lake Mungo magnetic reversal of 33,500 years ago correlates with a mass extinction. (Some studies even suggest that that is when the Neanderthal went extinct.)
Not only do magnetic reversals/excursions correlate with extinctions, many reversals occurred in sync with catastrophic glaciation. Here’s a chart showing those correlations.
Magnetic Reversals and Glaciation
When it comes to radiation, the records do show increased levels of carbon-14, beryllium and strontium at several magnetic reversals/excursions. I think this is what causes the evolutionary leaps that I refer to “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps”.
And finally, several studies have shown that volcanic activity increases during magnetic reversals.
How anyone can say that there are “no documented catastrophes” linked to magnetic reversals is beyond my comprehension.
Thanks to Chris Beal, John at Bayshore and David Thomas Bronzich for this link
- L. Sagnotti, G. Scardia, B. Giaccio, J. C. Liddicoat, S. Nomade, P. R. Renne, C. J. Sprain. Extremely rapid directional change during Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal. Geophysical Journal International, 2014; 199 (2): 1110 DOI: 10.1093/gji/ggu287