Satellite timing systems that govern electric grids could fail, causing a ripple effect that would shut off lights, computers and phones.
Satellite timing systems that govern electric grids could fail, causing a ripple effect that would shut off lights, computers and phones.

Don’t flip, but Earth’s magnetic poles due to switch

THE Earth's magnetic poles could be about to flip, sparking chaos and making large parts of the planet uninhabitable, it has emerged.

Experts have warned that the change is extremely likely, with the magnetic field weakening by 15 per cent over 200 years, The Sun reports.

According to a report by online science magazine Undark, the flip could cause "devastating streams of particles from the sun, galactic cosmic rays, and enhanced ultraviolet B rays from a radiation".

The report warned that satellite timing systems that govern electric grids could fail, causing a ripple effect that would shut off lights, computers and phones.

Even flushing the toilet could become impossible.

The article shared concerns from Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who warned "that parts of the planet will become uninhabitable during a reversal".

Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, which could cause the poles to flip, sparking chaos. Picture: AFP Photo/NASA
Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, which could cause the poles to flip, sparking chaos. Picture: AFP Photo/NASA

Historically, the North and South magnetic poles have flipped every 200,000 to 300,000 years.

But the flip is now overdue - with the last change estimated to have occurred about 780,000 years ago.

Climate change also seems to be shifting the planet's geographic poles, according to National Geographic, which noted that "we're a bit overdue for a total reversal, and some data do, in fact, suggest that a geomagnetic reversal is geologically imminent."

It said the flip could be "sluggish", meaning we might be be slightly less protected from harmful rays for a significant period.

Researchers have previously spotted an "anomaly" beneath South Africa, which could indicate this rare natural phenomenon is about to hit Earth.

We don't know what the effects will be, but it's believed the flip could cause electricity grids to go haywire - which poses the risk of causing economic chaos around the world.

Earth's north magnetic pole is drifting from North America at such a clip that it could end up in Siberia. The shift could mean that Alaska may no longer be able to see the high-altitude shimmering displays of colourful lights called the aurora borealis. Picture: AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Evan R. Steinhauser, File
Earth's north magnetic pole is drifting from North America at such a clip that it could end up in Siberia. The shift could mean that Alaska may no longer be able to see the high-altitude shimmering displays of colourful lights called the aurora borealis. Picture: AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Evan R. Steinhauser, File

The shift would see North and South switch over on our compasses, and could mean animals that use Earth's magnetic field for navigation could get lost during migration.

Some experts have even linked pole reversals to mass extinctions, because the reversal could cause dangerous particles to rain down on the planet.

It is believed the magnetic field flip could take place in the next 2000 years.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD FLIPS

Mass extinction? Some experts believe changes to the magnetic field would allow dangerous particles to rain down on Earth. They say the magnetic field disappears entirely during a flip, leaving us vulnerable. However, this theory proved controversial and several scientists have said mass extinctions are unlikely to be caused by the flip.

Disappearing atmosphere ? Thankfully, this scenario is highly unlikely. However, it is believed that Mars' atmosphere was stripped by the solar wind because is does not have a strong magnetic field.

Economic collapse? The flip could bring down power grids across the world, potentially crashing stock markets and stopping economies from working properly.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission.



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