New satellite data from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal that the mysterious anomaly weakening Earth’s magnetic field continues to evolve, with the most recent observations showing we could soon be dealing with more than one of these strange phenomena.
The South Atlantic Anomaly is a vast expanse of reduced magnetic intensity in Earth’s magnetic field, extending all the way from South America to southwest Africa.
Since our planet’s magnetic field acts as a kind of shield – protecting Earth from solar winds and cosmic radiation, in addition to determining the location of the magnetic poles – any reduction in its strength is an important event we need to monitor closely, as these changes could ultimately have significant implications for our planet.
At present, there’s nothing to be alarmed about. The ESA notes that the most significant effects right now are largely limited to technical malfunctions on board satellites and spacecraft, which can be exposed to a greater amount of charged particles in low-Earth orbit as they pass through the South Atlantic Anomaly in the skies above South America and the South Atlantic Ocean.
Not that the magnitude of the anomaly should be diminished, though. In the last two centuries, Earth’s magnetic field has lost about 9 percent of its strength on average, the ESA says, assisted by a drop in minimum field strength in the South Atlantic Anomaly from approximately 24,000 nanoteslas to 22,000 nanoteslas over the past 50 years.
Exactly why this is happening remains a mystery. Earth’s magnetic field is generated by electrical currents produced by a swirling mass of liquid iron within the outer core of our planet, but while this phenomenon appears stable at any given moment, over vast timescales, it’s never really still.
Research has shown that Earth’s magnetic field is constantly in a state of flux, and every few hundred thousand years (give or take), Earth’s magnetic field flips, with the north and south magnetic poles swapping places.
That process could actually occur more frequently than people think, but while scientists continually debate when we might next witness such an event, even the regular, wandering movements of Earth’s magnetic poles keep geophysicists guessing.
In any case, it’s not fully clear how those reversals might be tied to what’s currently going on with the South Atlantic Anomaly – which some have suggested could be caused by a vast reservoir of dense rock underneath Africa called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province. More Information Here!!