Despite the rumors and conspiracy theories regarding a fast-approaching switch of the Earth's magnetic poles, a study released by Stanford University researchers puts these worries to rest, according to The Watchers. The researchers found that the current intensity of Earth's magnetic field is still twice the long-term average that was expected over the last 5 million years, meaning a geomagnetic pole shift is unlikely to occur for thousands of years.
The study analyzed the paleointensity data of ancient lava flows near the equator and compared them to those from other flows near the South Pole, according to the Daily Mail. As lava cools, its iron minerals align with the Earth's magnetic field, so scientists were able to use data from ancient lava to determine the direction and intensity of the magnetic field at its formation. In total, they compared 27 lava samples from the equator to 38 from the South Pole, spanning a timeframe of approximately 5 million years.
"Sometimes you won't have a flip for about 40 million years; other times there will be 10 flips in 1 million years," said Huapei Wang, lead author of the study. "On average, the duration between two flips is a few hundred thousand years. The last flip was around 780,000 years ago, so we are actually overdue for a flip."
The fact that our present-day magnetic field is relatively strong explains why a reversal hasn't happened for so long; strong fields are less susceptible to reversals, according to Science News.
"What I can say is, if you keep a constant present-day decrease rate, it will take another 1,000 years for the field to drop to its long-term average," said Wang. "From there, the field intensity may go up again. There's really no way to predict what will happen after that, given the random nature of the magnetohydrodynamic process of the geodynamo."