Did You Know

Earth's Magnetic Poles Could Flip Sooner Than We Thought, And The Result Could Be Disastrous

YouTube via HubbleESA

Just like how we can't avoid natural disasters, we have no say when it comes to other natural occurrences that happen on Earth, including the flipping of the magnetic poles.

You don't often hear about this geomagnetic shift happening because it's a rare event.

Scientists estimate that the planet's North and South poles flip every between 200,000 to 300,000 years.

It's been more than 780,000 years since a complete reversal has happened, and some scientists think another shift is coming sooner than we thought.

A new study suggests that Earth's magnetic poles will flip in the coming centuries, affecting the planet and humanity in many ways.

While analyzing the behaviors of an ancient magnetic field in southwestern China, researchers at the Australian National University found that the magnetic field has experienced a rapid shift over the last two centuries.

"The record provides important insights into ancient magnetic field behavior, which has turned out to vary much more rapidly than previously thought,"  Professor Andrew Roberts from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said in a statement.

If their hypothesis turns out to be true, a reversal would cause the planet's protective magnetic field to weaken, which would leave life on Earth vulnerable to "space weather."

"Earth's magnetic field, which has existed for at least 3.45 billion years, provides a shield from the direct impact of solar radiation," Roberts said.

"Even with Earth's strong magnetic field today, we're still susceptible to solar storms that can damage our electricity-based society."

Is it time to panic?

The findings, which were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, said there's no need to be worried just yet.

While this study suggest the poles could flip in the coming centuries, researchers also acknowledge that the Earth's magnetic field is very unpredictable.

Roberts added that he hopes there's a way to mitigate the effects of a complete reversal.

"Hopefully such an event is a long way in the future and we can develop future technologies to avoid huge damage, where possible, from such events."

Are you worried about a shift in magnetic poles?

Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.