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Do magnetic flips cause mass extinctions ?

Posted on Thursday, 12 June, 2014 | Comment icon 55 comments

Earth's magnetic field flips every 500,000 years. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 NikoLang

The periodic reversal of the Earth's magnetic field may play a key role in mass extinction events.

There have been many mass extinctions throughout the Earth's history and while their effects are plain to see in the fossil record, scientists have been struggling to fully explain what might be behind these cataclysmic die-offs.

In a recent effort to help get to the bottom of the mystery, researcher Yong Wei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his team have been exploring whether these mass extinctions could be the result of the Earth's magnetic field reversing, an event that takes place every 500,000 years and which sees the planet's north and south poles swapping places.

By analyzing the mass extinction that occured between the Triassic and Jurassic eras 200 million years ago, Wei and his team were able to determine that the atmosphere lost 218 trillion tons of oxygen due to magnetic reversal, a figure that could have had a serious impact on the wildlife of that time period.

By combining these results with available data on other external and environmental factors such as asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions it may finally be possible to piece together a complete picture of what has been wiping species out over the last few hundred million years.

Source: Discover Magazine | Comments (55)

Tags: Magnetic Field, Pole Reversal, Earth

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #46 Posted by zelootje on 11 July, 2014, 22:44
IMHO, a geomagnetic flip will cause a mass extinction in my wallet... the assortment of expensive and sensitive goodies we have in a planetary orbit do not pay their own maintenance and/or replacement by more robust equipment. In the worst case scenario, we have to deal with a crumbling communication system AND an extreme cooling climate. Even if the geomagnetic reversal won't happen for another 1000 years, we are still dealing with rising sea levels at the moment: gradually we will have to think about moving some very expensive structures (cities and harbours) along ALL coast lines (try t... [More]
Comment icon #47 Posted by docyabut2 on 12 July, 2014, 1:26
I don`nt think magnetic flips cause any thing but a little bad weather and at the rate it going will just be gradual .Now there was a time in history where the earth was turned on it axis 90 degrees when the was so much ice on the pole that cause a slippage. .
Comment icon #48 Posted by quiXilver on 12 July, 2014, 2:51
memory is holographic and magnetic in nature, pole reversal will wipe the memory from all life unless far underground.... that's why only the reptoids survive and that's why we are all the result of reptoids and come from eggs...
Comment icon #49 Posted by docyabut2 on 12 July, 2014, 8:30
Comment icon #50 Posted by zelootje on 13 July, 2014, 20:59
I read somewhere that cosmic rays influence cloud coverage and that in turn reduces the temperature; i believe it was but because i found the lack of sources disappointing, i started looking for more info and found it not only plentiful but also convincing (speaking as a layman:-): influx of cosmic rays happens all the time but is deflected by solar activity and our own geomagnetic barrier; I immediately realised that a convergence of those two (lower solar activity AND ... [More]
Comment icon #51 Posted by DONTEATUS on 13 July, 2014, 22:44
Well either that or the Ape virus is going to Kill us all off ! I`ll take the asteroid for one ! ITs really quick and painless !
Comment icon #52 Posted by DieChecker on 14 July, 2014, 2:19
I find it interesting that something like a species of butterfly that lives only in one meadow in northern California, and eats from only one kind of flower MUST be protected from extinction. Seems to me that a species that has become so specialized that it lives no where else and lives off only one food source is basically on the way into extinction anyway. The world turns and that meadow will be overrun eventually by stronger, tougher, faster growing plants. I agree that even if there is a little more radiation, it might be good for the ecology of the world in the long run, as mutation w... [More]
Comment icon #53 Posted by DieChecker on 14 July, 2014, 2:21
[spoiler]I saw that movie the other day. It wasn't nukes, like Charlton Heston thought, but a virus that took us out.[/spoiler]
Comment icon #54 Posted by docyabut2 on 14 July, 2014, 2:31
l don't think a gradual magnetic flip will cause much, but a sense of direction that could cause animals and insects like the bees to lose their direction to migrate.
Comment icon #55 Posted by DieChecker on 14 July, 2014, 5:38
Maybe that explains how Canadian geese went to Hawaii and formed the ancestors of the current Hawaiian geese? 500,000 years ago was "close" to the time of the last magnetic flip, yes?

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