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Earth as a Magnet

Earth has magnetic poles and a magnetic field over which it exerts magnetic force.

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What Will Happen When Earth's Poles Flip?

What Will Happen When Earth's Poles Flip?

This colorful diagram show deadly solar storms flinging dangerous particles toward planet Earth. Fortunately for us, most of the radiation is deflected by Earth’s magnetic field. What if Earth’s magnetic field grew weaker or Earth’s magnetic poles even flipped positions? What would happen then?

Amazing but True!

  • It may sound like science fiction, but it’s actually science fact. Earth’s magnetic poles are always shifting and changing in strength. It’s not a matter of if but when the magnetic poles will flip. They’ve already done it hundreds of times in the past. It’s called a magnetic field reversal.
  • Credit: Image Editor
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2821003840/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    What will happen to the different sections of Earth's magnetosphere when the poles flip? [Figure1]

  • What will happen when Earth’s magnetic poles flip? Will it be doomsday on Earth? Nobody knows for sure what the full effects will be.
  • Before considering how life on Earth might change when North becomes South—and vice versa—watch this video. It shows what causes Earth’s magnetic field and how it protects life on our planet. 


What Do You Think?

Learn more about the possible causes and effects of magnetic field reversals at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What causes Earth’s magnetic field?
  2. What is the magnetosphere? Why does its shape constantly change?
  3. Why is Earth’s magnetic field able to deflect particles in solar wind and solar storms?
  4. Why do scientists think magnetic field reversals occur?
  5. How long does it take for a magnetic field reversal to occur? What happens to the magnetic field during the reversal process?
  6. When did Earth’s last magnetic field reversal occur? How has Earth’s magnetic field changed over the past 160 years?
  7. How might living things be affected by a magnetic field reversal? How might technology be affected?
  8. What do you think? Will the next magnetic field reversal bring doomsday to Earth? Why or why not?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Image Editor; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2821003840/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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