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Geomagnetic reversal linked to mass extinction

Posted on Sunday, 21 February, 2021 | Comment icon 8 comments

Our planet's magnetic field has changed a lot over the years. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Reid
Scientists believe that a historic reversal of the Earth's magnetic field may have proven catastrophic.
The current orientation of our planet's magnetic field is something that we tend to take for granted, however every now and again the Earth's poles perform a total reversal, meaning that at some point in the future we can expect the same thing to happen again.

But what was the impact of life on Earth the last time this happened ?

According to new research, when the Earth's magnetic field flipped around 42,000 years ago it caused so much environmental destruction that it could explain the disappearance of much of the planet's megafauna as well as the Neanderthals - our closest living relatives at that time.

While previous studies had suggested that this event - known as the Laschamps excursion - had little impact on life, scientists now believe that the opposite is more likely to have been true.

The research involved conducting radiocarbon analyses of ancient kauri trees (which date back up to 42,000 years) that were found preserved in the northern wetlands of New Zealand.
By cross-referencing their findings with other scientific data such as that obtained from ice core samples, they were able to identify a period of significant environmental upheaval across the globe.

"We see this massive growth of the ice sheet over North America... we see tropical rain belts in the west Pacific shifting dramatically at that point, and then also wind belts in the southern ocean and a drying out in Australia," the researchers wrote.

That said, not all scientists agree with the study's conclusions.

"I think it could certainly have contributed to the [Neanderthals'] demise," said Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London.

"But they did survive longer and ranged more widely than just Europe, and we have a very poor fix on the timing of their final disappearance across swathes of Asia."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (8)

Tags: Earth, Magnetic

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by joshy on 22 February, 2021, 3:57
hope it makes me extinct.
Comment icon #2 Posted by pbarosso on 22 February, 2021, 4:30
WELL, will balance out the overpopulation in the world.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Seti42 on 22 February, 2021, 7:01
I doubt it'll effect us much. We'd be aware of it, and fix all of our tech that's at risk. I suppose it might mess with migratory animals. Hard to say. Everything I've read about the idea of pole reversal says it would have little effect.
Comment icon #4 Posted by FlyingAngel on 23 February, 2021, 4:29
Any newborn living will adapt its body through time. Nothing to worry about. Selection natural FTW
Comment icon #5 Posted by SeekTruth on 24 February, 2021, 17:23
How many people is too many, in your view?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Bavarian Raven on 24 February, 2021, 19:04
From a long term environmentally sustainability POV (at western standards on living), wed ideally need a pop under a billion. :/
Comment icon #7 Posted by SeekTruth on 24 February, 2021, 20:11
Can you expound on your reasoning?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Bavarian Raven on 25 February, 2021, 0:59
To live at western standards requires A LOT of resources per person per year. The earth can only support / regenerate so much per year. The more people living at a higher standard of living, the more resources needed / taken / harvested every year. At the current human population (if everyone was to live at western standards), we would need 6 to 7 earths to live indefinitely. :( Basically, we're using up more resources every year than are being regenerated. :(

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