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Science & Technology

Do magnetic flips cause mass extinctions ?

June 12, 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)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #46 Posted by zelootje 8 years ago
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 to pi... [More]
Comment icon #47 Posted by docyabut2 8 years ago
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 8 years ago
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 8 years ago
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/01/06/magnetic-north-pole-shifts-forces-closure-florida-airport/
Comment icon #50 Posted by zelootje 8 years ago
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. . I read somewhere that cosmic rays influence cloud coverage and that in turn reduces the temperature; i believe it was here 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:-): http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/01/02/121338... [More]
Comment icon #51 Posted by DONTEATUS 8 years ago
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 8 years ago
I'd imagine increased radiation exposure to life for a period of time might actually fuel a lot of mutation. Some animals would die off bit many would also adapt. A pole flip woukd be Interesting to see but life has evolved on earth with it happening so I don't think life woukd be affected all that much. Mass extinctions can a d do happen over time aswell. A thousand years is a geological blip. In fact we are in the middle if a mass extinction right now causes by humans. I find it interesting that something like a species of butterfly that lives only in one meadow in northern California, and e... [More]
Comment icon #53 Posted by DieChecker 8 years ago
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 ! I saw that movie the other day. It wasn't nukes, like Charlton Heston thought, but a virus that took us out.
Comment icon #54 Posted by docyabut2 8 years ago
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 8 years ago
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. Maybe that explains how Canadian geese went to Hawaii and formed the ancestors of the current Hawaiian geese? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nene_(bird) The nene evolved from the Canada goose (Branta canadensis), which most likely arrived on the Hawaiian islands about 500,000 years ago, shortly after the island of Hawai?i was formed. 500,000 years ago was "close" to the time of the last magnetic flip, yes?


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