Brian Jones Magnetic Storms Since its conception, the Earth’s magnetic field has protected this planet

from solar wind and miscellaneous space debris. Without it, the planet would surely experience atmospheric destruction. If one wishes to see what happens when a magnetic field is very weak, one must only look at our neighboring Venus and Mars. Both planets, of course, would be considered “dead,” at least when compared to the Earth. Their weak fields do not protect them from radiation. Unfortunately, it appears that our magnetic field may disappear within one thousand years. The earth’s core is quickly losing its ability to maintain the magnetic field. If the field were to actually disappear, the results would be disastrous. After all, most of our technology uses magnetism in some way or another; electronics, in particular. Currently, the field begins at the core, travels through the South Pole, divides and circles around the planet on both sides, and finally reunites and returns to the core via the North Pole. It is the magnetism from this field that protects us from solar winds. However, some solar wind becomes stuck in the field near the poles; this is what causes the Northern Lights. Regardless, the reason we know that the magnetic field is fading is through the use of scientific tools. Three-dimensional magnets are able to measure a magnetic field’s strength. Electromagnets can do the same thing. By using tools like this in space, scientists have been able to determine that Mars, at one time, also had a strong magnetic field. Therefore, it is thought that Mars had a system of life similar to the one we now have on Earth. Evidence for this also lies in the fact that, despite the planet’s core lacking a magnetic field, areas on the planet surface do indeed have a slight field.

Theoretically, two giant meteors crashed into Mars at a point after the magnetic field had disappeared. This is, more or less, what caused the end of life on Mars. Had the planet still been protected by its field, the meteors would’ve been deflected or opposed in some way. Afterward, solar wind eventually wiped out Mars’ atmosphere. In order to realize that our magnetic field is decreasing, it is obviously important to know what the field’s strength was in the past. By analyzing the magnetite in the clay in ancient pottery, it has been determined that the strength of the field had gentle changes over many centuries; it then spiked up, and in the past 300 years, has rapidly decreased. A possible reason for this is that the magnetic core could be cooling and solidifying, which would cause the field to simply disappear. However, it looks like this won’t happen for billions of years. A new possibility of why the field is weakening has been uncovered. Some cooled lava in Hawaii dates back five million years. The magnetite inside of this old lava is now pointing south. This does not make sense by today’s standards, because magnetite is supposed to point north. It points south because, prior to 780,000 years ago, the field actually traveled south; it should be noted that this is in contrast to the field’s current direction. Apparently, the field’s direction reverses approximately every 200,000 years. We are overdue for a directional switch. When the direction reverses, the field’s strength weakens for a time. According to 18th century naval records, the South Atlantic has been full of magnetic anomalies for a long time; that is the area where magnetism flows back into the core. Mankind must be careful for this time of magnetic reversal, because it will be a period of magnetic chaos. Magnetic North will be constantly changing. Navigation will

be incredibly difficult. Several other consequences may involve our electronics. In the meantime, the lack of a strong field could allow all sorts of radiation into the atmosphere, causing more deaths by cancer. Several magnetic poles may appear around the planet. However, on the positive side, auroras may be seen in many parts of the world every night. It will be a very interesting period in human history. Hopefully, we will be ready.