Science Questions

How long will the earths magnetic field dissappear for?

Sun, 14th Oct 2007

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Question

Jeff, Michigan asked:

I have a question about the reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field. I hear that the field polarity occasionally switches round periodically so the north turns to be somewhere south. I’ve also heard that between the switch there’s a period of time when there isn’t a substantial magnetic field so, my question is, what is the historical estimate of how long it would be before the magnetic field returns?

Answer

The Earth’s magnetic field does seem to flip every few hundred thousand years and we’re overdue for one at the moment.  A few years ago they thought this would take hundreds of thousand of years for it to flip slowly.  But recent evidence suggests that it’ll maybe flip over faster.  In the process of it flipping over it doesn’t tend to flip over evenly.  What tends to happen is the North Pole gets weaker and weaker and sometimes you get two, three or four other North Poles around the Earth in different places that move around quite fast.  Eventually it’ll stabilise again the other way around… maybe after 20-30 years.

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