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South Atlantic Anomaly: Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, believe scientists

The behaviour of earth’s geomagnetic field in an area between Africa and South America is being termed the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’. The European Space Agency’s Swarm Constellation (Photo Credits: ESA)Earth’s magnetic field is weakening in an area between Africa and South America, scientists with The European Space Agency (ESA) say. Also known as the geomagnetic…

The behaviour of earth’s geomagnetic field in an area between Africa and South America is being termed the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’.

The European Space Agency's Swarm Constellation

The European Space Agency’s Swarm Constellation (Photo Credits: ESA)

Earth’s magnetic field is weakening in an area between Africa and South America, scientists with The European Space Agency (ESA) say. Also known as the geomagnetic field or the surface magnetic field, this field forms the Earth’s magnetosphere and spans tens of thousands of kilometres into space.

This behaviour of the earth’s magnetic field in the area between Africa and South America is being termed the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’. According to the ESA, “This strange behaviour has geophysicists puzzled and is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth.”

While stating that the Earth’s magnetic field is vital to life on the planet since it protects us from the Sun’s charged particles and cosmic radiation, ESA claims that the geomagnetic field has lost around 9 per cent of its strength across the planet over the last 200 years.

The findings are consistent with recent studies asserting that the earth’s north magnetic pole is slowly moving towards Siberia. According to the ESA, its Swarm satellite constellation is playing a crucial role in recording and monitoring these changes. Unlike geographical poles, that are stationery, the earth’s magnetic poles continue to wander.

South Atlantic Anomaly impact radiation (Photo Credits: ESA)

The minimum field strength of the geomagnetic field in the said area between Africa and South America has dropped to 22,000 nanoteslas from 24,000 nanoteslas in the period from 1970 to 2020. In fact, the area which is subject to the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’ has also moved expanded and shifted westward at a pace of around 20 kilometers per year.

While this anomaly is giving scientists more to learn about Earth’s interior, it is also fuelling speculation that this weakening of the geomagnetic field is a sign that the planet could be headed for a pole reversal. A phenomenon that takes place once every 250,000 years, this is when the Earth’s north and south magnetic poles switch places.

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