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09-Aug-2017 06:12

Geomagnetic polarity during the last 5 million years (Pliocene and Quaternary, late Cenozoic Era).

Dark areas denote periods where the polarity matches today's polarity, light areas denote periods where that polarity is reversed.

If the two magnetic poles were to switch places, something that has happened periodically over the course of Earth’s history, all of this would be compromised.

Since 1840, the year scientists began to measure such things, the global strength of the Earth’s magnetic field has been declining at a rate of around 5 per cent per century.

Now, a well-timed paper published in the scientific journal titled “Earth's magnetic field is probably not reversing” has helped quieten some of the wilder speculation about this proposed doomsday scenario.

Earth’s magnetic field is generated deep within the core of the planet by metals including iron and nickel.

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The last time such a “geomagnetic reversal” or “excursion” happened was 780,000 years ago, but coverage of this phenomenon has suggested such an event is right around the corner.The repercussions of such an event included “devastating streams of particles from the sun, galactic cosmic rays, and enhanced ultraviolet B rays from a radiation-damaged ozone layer”.Reports warned of a world in which computers, mobile phones and even flushing toilets ceased to work, and parts of the Earth became devoid of life.Based on the Earth’s history of flipping its magnetic field, something which can be calculated based on magnetics minerals in rocks, they think such an event is unlikely to happen any time soon.

“There has been speculation that we are about to experience a magnetic polar reversal or excursion,” said Professor Richard Holme, a geomagnetism expert at the University of Liverpool.

Most reversals are estimated to take between 1,000 and 10,000 years.