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 (56)
Magnetic Field, Pole Reversal, Earth