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Judi Lynn

(160,755 posts)
Fri May 27, 2022, 05:00 AM May 2022

Scientists Spot Trippy Waves Rippling Across Earth's Outer Core [View all]

The Editors - Yesterday 4:35 PM

A team of scientists in Belgium and France have discovered a new type of magnetic wave—called a Magneto-Coriolis wave—that courses across the surface of Earth’s outer core every seven years. The researchers analyzed years’ worth of satellite data from magnetic field-scanning satellites to build a model of the bizarre waves.

Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the “magnetosphere,” is vital in sustaining life on our planet. This vast bubble of charged particles wraps around our planet like a comet’s tail, protecting us from a barrage of both solar and cosmic radiation. In essence, it has turned Earth into a giant dipole magnet, helping to orient the navigation systems that direct everything from our smartphones to satellites.

Earth’s magnetosphere is generated in our planet’s outer core, a churning sea of molten iron roughly 1,800 feet below the surface. Electrically charged particles in the outer core form convective cells, which produce an electric current that forms what scientists call a “dynamo.” This process is what forms Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere.

Our magnetic field is a particularly weird one. It periodically flips, sending the magnetic north pole to the southern hemisphere and vice versa. (Fear not a reasonable amount: The last polar reversal occurred 780,000 years ago. Technically, we are overdue for a pole swap, but experts agree we’d probably be able to adjust.) In recent years—geologically speaking, that is—scientists have noticed other bizarre behavior. The magnetic north pole, for example, is slithering eastward at break-neck speed. And in one region between Africa and South America, the field is even weakening. While understanding these idiosyncrasies has become a priority for many earth scientists, there’s still a lot that we don’t know.


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