New data obtained by the European Space Agency (ESA) satellites have revealed the existence of a mysterious anomaly weakening the Earth's magnetic field. Termed as 'South Atlantic Anomaly', it extends all the way from South America to southwest Africa. But what does this exactly mean? Are all the doomsday theories making rounds real? IndiaTVnews.com reached out to NASA with similar questions.
NASA Heliophysics Communications Lead, Karen C Fox, told IndiaTVnews.com that most of these theories are based on mistaken assumptions. "Another doomsday hypothesis about a geomagnetic flip plays up fears about incoming solar activity. This suggestion mistakenly assumes that a pole reversal would momentarily leave Earth without the magnetic field that protects us from solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun," Karen said.
She further added that while the magnetic field of the Earth can weaken and strengthen over time, it has never completely disappeared. "While Earth's magnetic field can indeed weaken and strengthen over time, there is no indication that it has ever disappeared completely," she said.
"A weaker field would certainly lead to a small increase in solar radiation on Earth – as well as a beautiful display of aurora at lower latitudes - but nothing deadly. Moreover, even with a weakened magnetic field, Earth's thick atmosphere also offers protection against the sun's incoming particles," the top NASA official said.
The ESA earlier in its report said, "In an area stretching from Africa to South America, Earth’s magnetic field is gradually weakening. This strange behavior has geophysicists puzzled and is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth. Scientists are using data from ESA’s Swarm constellation to improve our understanding of this area known as the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly."
The report further reads -- From 1970 to 2020, the minimum field strength in this area has dropped from around 24 000 nanoteslas to 22 000, while at the same time the area of the anomaly has grown and moved westward at a pace of around 20 km per year. Over the past five years, a second centre of minimum intensity has emerged southwest of Africa – indicating that the South Atlantic Anomaly could split up into two separate cells.
To refresh your memory, note the point that all the doomsday scenarios surrounding the year 2012 were based on similar theories. A report, that NASA pointed us at, talks about this at length. "The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is – in terms of geologic time scales – a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia. While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable – the north pole's movement could subtly change direction, for instance – there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the 2012 doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously. A reversal might, however, be good business for magnetic compass manufacturers," the NASA report reads.