The magnetic field that is surrounding Earth is gradually weakening between Africa and South America, and researchers are trying to understand why. The weakening of the magnetic field is causing disturbances on satellites that orbit the planet.
Why is it weakening?
The area is known as the South Atlantic Anomaly, and scientists are using the data that they gathered from the European Space Agency's Swarm constellation to know more about the phenomenon. The researchers also stated that between 1970 and 2020, the area of anomaly dropped in strength by 8%, which is already very high.
Jürgen Matzka, from the German Research Center for Geosciences, said that in the past 10 years, the new eastern minimum of the anomaly already appeared, and in the past few years, it is rapidly developing.
Matzka added that the Swarm satellites in orbit are helping them observe, study, and record the development of the anomaly. The challenge that researchers are facing now is trying to understand the processes in the core of the Earth and what is driving the changes.
Researchers are still trying to understand why the magnetic field of the planet is weakening, although there is no concrete answer yet, there are theories as to why. According to the ESA, the field weakening could be a sign that the magnetic field of Earth is about to reverse, which means that the North Pole and the South Pole could switch places.
The reversal is also called a geomagnetic reversal, and the last time that it happened was 780,000 years ago. Scientists claimed that the next geomagnetic reversal is already overdue and it should have happened already because it normally takes place every 250,000 years.
There are consequences when geomagnetic reversal takes place because the magnetic field of the planet is important in protecting humanity from solar winds and cosmic radiation. Satellite systems and telecommunication systems rely on magnetic fields to operate, if there are changes then mobile phones and computers may experience difficulties.
The ESA warned that the South Atlantic Anomaly is already causing issues with satellites orbiting Earth, and spacecraft that are flying in the area are already experiencing technical difficulties. According to the study published in 2018 called "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", the magnetic field of the planet may be weakening but it is not reversing.
The study also states that the process is not instant, and it takes thousands of years before it happens. The ESA said that it would continue to monitor the weakening magnetic field with its Swarm satellites.
Earth's magnetic field
The Earth's magnetic field protects humans from space radiation and from particles that emanates from the sun. According to the ESA, the magnetic field is generated by a very hot swirling liquid iron that comprises the outer core of Earth, which is approximately 3,000 kilometers under the ground.
The thing about the magnetic field is that it may weaken, but it will not disappear. But what if it does? What will happen is that a massive number of charged solar particles would hit Earth, power grids and satellites will experience technical difficulties and it will increase human exposure to higher levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.