NEW DISCOVERIES (2/9)

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Submitted to "Volume 22, Number 16"
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Earth’s Last Magnetic Field Reversal Took Far Longer Than Once Thought – (PhysOrg – August 7, 2019) The magnetic North Pole is currently careening toward Siberia, which recently forced the Global Positioning System that underlies modern navigation to update its software sooner than expected to account for the shift. And every several hundred thousand years or so, the magnetic field dramatically shifts and reverses its polarity: Magnetic north shifts to the geographic South Pole and, eventually, back again. This reversal has happened countless times over the Earth’s history, but scientists have only a limited understanding of why the field reverses and how it happens. New work from University of Wisconsin-Madison geologist Brad Singer and his colleagues finds that the most recent field reversal, some 770,000 years ago, took at least 22,000 years to complete. That’s several times longer than previously thought, and the results further call into question controversial findings that some reversals could occur within a human lifetime. The new analysis—based on advances in measurement capabilities and a global survey of lava flows, ocean sediments and Antarctic ice cores—provides a detailed look at a turbulent time for Earth’s magnetic field. Over millennia, the field weakened, partially shifted, stabilized again and then finally reversed for good to the orientation we know today. The results provide a clearer and more nuanced picture of reversals at a time when some scientists believe we may be experiencing the early stages of a reversal as the field weakens and moves.

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Written by John L. Petersen

Visionary

INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE (3/9)

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