Scientists spotted a long-standing weak point in Earth’s magnetic field that might be breaking into two distinct areas of weakness. The South Atlantic Anomaly is a part of Earth’s magnetic field between Africa and South America. For years, that area became weaker, part of a global trend. According to the ESA (the European Space Agency), Earth’s magnetic field has lost 9 % of its strength over the last 200 years.
Currently, satellites monitoring the anomaly have discovered an intensified weakening southwest of Africa. Such a thing suggests that the anomaly could divide into two separate low points. This change might not signal any imminent danger. It can unveil what’s going on in the Earth’s core to trigger the changes, according to the ESA.
A Fluctuating Field
The magnetic field is why the GPS and compasses work. It shields Earth from charged solar particles that can destroy electrical equipment. So, its fluctuations are more significant than we can imagine. Unfortunately, they’re poorly understood.
The magnetic field isn’t as tidy and neat as the one made by a typical bar magnet. It possesses some points of strength and weakness, with north and south switching places. The recent weakening process of our planet’s magnetic field could predict another one of those switches, or it might be a temporary fluctuation. According to recent research, if the field does shift, then the South Atlantic Anomaly is possibly the source of the change.
A Mystery Beneath
The ESA’s Swarm constellation of satellites sent back in 2013, is examining the anomaly for any changes that could tell what’s happening in the core. So far, the satellites found that the South Atlantic Anomaly has made a second center of minimum magnetic intensity.
“The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is developing vigorously,” said Jurgen Matzka, a geomagnetism researcher. The challenge is now to find out why the processes in the planet’s core trigger those changes.