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Poles Ready to Flip

There are large holes in the Earth's magnetic field over the Atlantic and the Arctic, indicating that the north and south poles may be getting ready to reverse positions in a magnetic flip. This would produce a period of chaos, when compasses no longer point north, migrating animals head in the wrong direction and satellites are burned up by solar radiation. There have already been recent cases where migrating birds ended up in strange places, far from their regular destinations. The speed of the change has surprised scientists.

In the January 13 Sunday Times of London, Jonathan Leake writes that the Danish Orsted satellite first noted the holes. The Earth's magnetic fields are generated by currents of molten iron flowing around the solid core. Sometimes giant holes form in the liquid metal and this can change or even reverse the magnetic fields above them. Andy Jackson, a specialist in geomagnetism, says, "Such flips normally happen every 500,000 years, but it has been 750,000 years since the last one," so we're overdue.

The magnetosphere protects the Earth from solar radiation that could sterilize everything on the surface. Although the magnetic field won't disappear, it may get weaker while the poles switch. The resulting surge in radiation could cause cancer, reduce crop yields and confuse migrating animals. Have pole flips and other Earth events caused chaos in the past that has been passed down to us as Legend?

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