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Magnetic Reversals

Number 3 on list of potential Armageddons



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29 Sep 10 - When writer John Brandon interviewed scientists and science fiction writers to learn what they considered the eight greatest threats to life as we know it, magnetic reversals came up third on the list.

Every few hundred thousand years, the Earth's north and south magnetic poles reverse, says Brandon. "When that happens, they can swirl around for a while before finding their new home. Or they might pick multiple spots on the planet."

Every few hundred thousand years?  I think that number is far too conservative. As you know if you've read either of my books, I think the poles flip about every 11,500 years. Sometimes it's a full reversal, sometimes the pole moves south and then moves back fairly quickly. Sometimes it makes wild swings of up to 60 degrees before returning to its original position.

"The problem is not the poles flipping, but that the Earth's magnetic field draws down solar radiation around its poles," explains sci-fi author Walter Jon Williams. "So if one of the poles parks itself over, say, Chicago, a lot of inhabitants could get burned."

Magnetic reversals do occur, agrees Barrett Caldwell, an aeronautics and astronautics professor at Purdue University in an apparent attempt to calm our fears, "but it does not happen suddenly."

Again, I disagree. Some magnetic reversals may have taken place in as little as 30 days. See Geomagnetic field reverses in a flash

But the real danger, said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in an interview with FOX News, is that during the magnetic reversal the Earth would be unshielded from atomic particles from space. We’d need to protect ourselves using goggles and headgear, said Shostak, or stay indoors at all times.

This is where evolutionary leaps come into the picture. Those radioactive particles from space could affect our DNA, along with that of every plant and animal on Earth. That's how magnetic reversals trigger evolutionary leaps.

Number six on Brandon's list of potential Armageddons is that supervolcanoes wipe out the planet

"Of the six supervolcanoes in the world today," Williams said, three happen to be in the United States. One famously lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; the others are in Long Valley, Calif., and Valles Caldera, N.M."

But what if magnetic reversals actually trigger supervolcanoes? Should supervolcanoes then be fourth on the list?

Consider. Is it really just a coincidence that Yellowstone's last major eruption, which occurred about 640,000 years ago, correlates well with the Big Lost magnetic reversal? I don't think so.

Is it really just a coincidence that the Long Valley caldera, which formed about 760,000 years ago (, correlates well with the Brunhes/Matuyama magnetic reversal? I don't think so.

Whatever. I'm just glad to see magnetic reversals getting some respect.

See entire article: s
Thanks to Robert Kidd for this link




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