shifting geomagnetic field be Earth's nemesis?
Moscow, Sep 8 (RIA Novosti) The recent trouble with the International
Space Station (ISS), caused by simple computer virus capable
of stealing logins and passwords for computer games only,
was a minor incident compared to possible environmental changes
that could make space flights impossible.
They could also cripple aviation and television, and even
put terrestrial life at risk.
It is about the Earth's geomagnetic field, changing rapidly
and frequently. Scientists from the Institute for Geomagnetism
at the Russian Academy of Sciences say the Earth's magnet
poles are gradually drifting towards the Equator, with the
field intensity falling slowly but steadily.
The latter is expected to reach zero point in about 2,000
years, which would be a disaster for living organisms. The
rate of changes happening to the planet's liquid core, however,
could mean that the polarity shift is going to happen much
The movement of the liquid and the solid parts of the Earth's
core generate an electric potential, making the planet a sort
of electric generator that keeps things stable.
If a hundred years ago somebody said that the South and the
North could switch places, he would be definitely taken to
a mental hospital.
In 2001, an international polar expedition revealed that since
1994 the North magnetic pole shifted around 300 km.
Currently, it is drifting 40 km a year from the Canadian Arctic
shelf towards Russia's Severnaya Zemlya islands.
Scientists predict the North Pole could eventually be found
in South Atlantic.
An extensive anomaly area with the magnetic field intensity
at around 60 percent of the predicted value shows the forecast
is likely to score.
In the recent 20 years, the planet's magnetic field intensity
has decreased by 1.7 percent, and in South Atlantic by 10
percent. In the last 200 years, the Earth's magnetic field
has seen a 10 percent decrease in intensity.
What is the danger, after all? Scientists say changes in the
magnetic field would lead to the anti-radiation protection
weakening, with space flights becoming impossible and energy-dependent
systems, including mobile phones and satellites, failing.
Then, solar and space radiation would affect the genome of
the organisms inhabiting the Earth, causing some of them to
become extinct, and others to have a much greater degree of
Taking into account the solar flares, accompanied by extremely
powerful electrojet currents, life is likely to become impossible
on the Earth before the full magnetic field collapses.
That sounds terrible. But may be there's no need to dramatise
and hopefully we will not face giant blood-thirsty killer
ants from Hollywood horror movies.
Recent reports say that in the last 90 million years, the
magnetic poles changed around every 500,000 years, with no
total extinction or mass mutations of living organisms taking
place and the atmosphere remaining a reliable guarantor of
security of the Earth's biosphere.
The processes are especially hazardous for computer systems,
which are vital for the modern economy. Even today, magnetic
storms caused by solar activity inflict huge losses to mankind.
A decrease in the Earth's magnetic field intensity would boost
the power of magnetic storms and therefore cripple flight
connection, with avionics failing.
Besides that, any flight by plane would be dangerous to man.
Today, in the low-pressure upper atmosphere, the effect of
radiation is becoming more marked. In 2000, a Euro Commission
directive relegated pilots and flight attendants to high risk
The geomagnetic field keeps protecting us during flights so
far, but what lies ahead?
Scientists have not established so far if the changes happening
to the geomagnetic field are reversible. Nobody has ever found
out why the Earth's history has seen times when the magnet
poles remained in place as long as 50 million years. May be,
things will turn out well, anyway?