Earth’s Inner Core May Be Reversing

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In 2003, Hollywood released a disaster movie called. Core The Earth’s core has inexplicably stopped spinning — threatening to wipe out all life as we know it, due to the collapsing magnetic field. To fix this, a group of scientists is tasked with dropping a nuclear bomb to dig under the crust and get the core to start spinning again.

It was a truly ridiculous and convoluted story, even by Hollywood standards. But it turns out that there may be some truth to the idea that the Earth’s core can stop or alter its rotation and even cause some weird effects here on the surface.

An international team of researchers has discovered evidence that suggests the Earth’s inner core may have stopped its spin before reversing it. While not destroying all life on the planet, the reversal may cause some changes in Earth’s own rotation. An article of the study was published Jan. 23 in the journal Natural Geology.

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“The magnetic field and the rotation of the Earth and possibly the effects on surface processes and climate,” said Xiaodong Song, a seismologist at Peking University’s School of Earth and Space Sciences SinoProbe Laboratory and co-author of the study. He told The Daily Beast in an email. “It’s hard to say good or bad, but it’s something to watch out for as part of the world’s global change.”

When we talk about the Earth’s core, we’re typically talking about two things: the outer core, which is liquid and made up of molten iron and nickel; and the inner core, which is a solid ball of iron-nickel alloy. The inner core is separated from the rest of the Earth by the outer core, so it spins differently. Because it is a giant metal ball, it carries its own electric current, which creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet and protects us from cosmic radiation. Without this magnetic field, Earth would be a barren, irradiated wasteland.



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Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet and protects us from cosmic radiation. Without this magnetic field, Earth would be a barren, irradiated wasteland.

TUMEGGY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via GETTY

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Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet and protects us from cosmic radiation. Without this magnetic field, Earth would be a barren, irradiated wasteland.

TUMEGGY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via GETTY

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Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet and protects us from cosmic radiation. Without this magnetic field, Earth would be a barren, irradiated wasteland.

TUMEGGY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty

So studying the core isn’t just a pet project to better understand how Earth behaves; it should also give us clues to potential changes that could affect life on the surface.

To arrive at their findings, Song and his co-author (Beijing University research scientist Yi Yang) measured changes in both the waveform and travel time of seismic waves from earthquakes passing through the inner core since the 1960s. Around 2009 they discovered that “temporary changes in waveform shape disappeared simultaneously and consistently,” suggesting that the inner core had stopped spinning.

However, Song said they observed a “slight but strong reverse trend” in the waveforms, suggesting that it may have begun to reverse the rotation of the inner core. The authors believe this may be part of a seventy-year cycle in which the core rotates and reverses. This cycle coincides with changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

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However, Song adds that “we haven’t seen a full cycle of the seven-decade projected oscillations” and that the team will “follow up with more recent data to test the models and predictions.”

Fortunately, the researchers also explained that we are unlikely to encounter any end-of-the-world scenarios. The reversal will also not strongly affect the Earth’s magnetic field – causing a pole shift where north turns south and vice versa.

“The inner core spin is more likely to be associated with periodic fluctuation of magnetic field changes,” Song said. “The ripple is too small to change its sign from positive to negative.”

Still, it might be a good idea to assemble a team of scientists in case we need to bombard the core for some reason. Maybe Elon Musk’s Boring Company will finally have something useful to accomplish.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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