Breakdowns of Earth’s Magnetic Field

Breakdowns of Earth’s Magnetic Field


The temporary breakdown of Earth's magnetic field 42,000 years ago sparked major climate shifts that led to global environmental change and mass extinctions.


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The temporary breakdown of Earth's magnetic field 42,000 years ago sparked major climate shifts that led to global environmental change and mass extinctions, a new international study co-led by UNSW Sydney and the South Australian Museum shows.

This dramatic turning point in Earth's history laced with electrical storms, widespread auroras, and cosmic radiation was triggered by the reversal of Earth's magnetic poles and changing solar winds.

The findings were made possible with ancient New Zealand kauri trees, which have been preserved in sediments for over 40,000 years. Using the ancient trees we could measure, and date, the spike in atmospheric radiocarbon levels caused by the collapse of Earth's magnetic field. While scientists already knew the magnetic poles temporarily flipped around 41-42,000 years ago (known as the 'Laschamps Excursion'), they didn't know exactly how it impacted life on Earth if at all.


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