Earth’s poles are reversing, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete. However, researchers say the flip will happen much more quickly near the equator, causing havoc to measuring devices that rely on the magnetic poles.

Previous studies have reported a wide range of transition times, from a few thousand to 30,000 years. In New Scientist, Maggie McKee reports that Earth scientist Bradford Clement used data from 30 cores drilled from the beds of lakes or seas, and found that the length of time varied according to the latitude, from 2000 years near the equator to 11,000 years nearer the poles. He says, “[This]?helps explain why people were reporting different durations?It’s important to get an idea of how fast or slow this process is because it ends up controlling our idea of how the field is generated in the first place.” Studies of ocean sediments and lava flows show this is nothing new: the Earth has undergone several hundred pole flips. The most recent occurred about 780,000 years ago. But their timing seems to be random and physicists don’t understand what causes them. The Earth’s magnetic field is generated by the flow of liquid iron in the Earth’s outer core, and some change in the flow may cause the reversals. However, researchers don’t know what causes the flow change or if it happens at regular intervals.

Another life-changing event occurred in 1997, although only a few people know about it: The Phoenix Lights. Local physician Lynne Kitei had direct contact with them and she now tells her story in a 2-part interview beginning this week on Dreamland.

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