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Palaeontology

Geomagnetic reversal linked to mass extinction

February 21, 2021 | Comment icon 19 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 (19)



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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by Bavarian Raven 9 months ago
Asteroid mining won't really help. It's not so much metals that are in short supply (the earth contains massive massive massive amounts of Iron, etc), its more so deforestation, over fishing, pollution, etc, that are the real problems. I got my degree in environmental and biological sciences. it was depressing. :/  
Comment icon #11 Posted by SeekTruth 9 months ago
So it is not overpopulation that is your concern so much as it is unsustainable practices.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Bavarian Raven 9 months ago
Both. They’re directly linked. Either we need to lower the pop dramatically ASAP or reduce our standards of living several centuries for the most part
Comment icon #13 Posted by SeekTruth 9 months ago
But why couldn't we in theory have the same population as we have today while also having in place sustainable practices?
Comment icon #14 Posted by Trelane 9 months ago
Well the overall number, if it remained the same, you might, might. The issue becomes the shift in percentages. That meaning how many people live by western standards now as opposed to all? If every single human alive now were to be living by western standards there would be an implosion of critical resources. To prevent this there would have to be some significant changes to how we access and use the available resources
Comment icon #15 Posted by Myles 9 months ago
I don't really have numbers to support my view.   I feel the world is very much overpopulated.   I would be in favor of seeing it at under a billion as Raven said.  Animal species would be able to increase their numbers.   Land would be available for settling.  Pollution would decrease quite a bit.  Using 1/7 as the population, it would allow some cities to successfully power themselves with alternate energy.  A city of 500,000 would be a city of 71,000.   Granted that's not completely accurate because we don't know where people would settle.  
Comment icon #16 Posted by SeekTruth 9 months ago
And how would you like to see us get to that number?
Comment icon #17 Posted by Myles 9 months ago
I don't think we ever will outside of massive world wars.  It's more of a wish without any good way to get there.   I would like to see more efforts in keeping population increases more in check.   Free vasectomies would be nice.   I would offer anyone in jail some time off their sentence if they get "fixed".   Not much off the sentence though.   Maybe 2 months off a 5 year sentence if you get fixed.  
Comment icon #18 Posted by pbarosso 9 months ago
you people think much too highly of humans. we could never hurt the earth. the earth will freaking KILL us all. we have zero chance of hurting it. only hurting ourselves.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Abramelin 9 months ago
No one is hurting the earth. We only inhabit the upper part of its 'skin'. But our presence is most certainly hurting other life forms on this rock.


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