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Fwd: Magnetic Pole Shift? - Satellites Showing Radiation Damage

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  • Frits Westra
    Sunday 18 Jul 2004 National news http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/2004/07/18/news/news14.asp Something weird is going on below us Satellites in low-Earth orbit
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2004
      Sunday 18 Jul 2004 > National news

      http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/2004/07/18/news/news14.asp

      Something weird is going on below us

      Satellites in low-Earth orbit over Southern Africa are already showing
      signs of radiation damage

      BONNY SCHOONAKKER

      SOUTHERN Africa is experiencing weird vibes, according to scientists
      studying one of the more profound upheavals awaiting planet Earth.

      This forthcoming revolution is a reversal in the Earth's magnetic field,
      an event that occurs every 500 000 years or so.

      Signs that the reversal is about to happen again are nowhere more apparent
      than over Southern Africa, according to Dr Pieter Kotze, head of the
      geomagnetism group at the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory in the southern
      Cape.

      Satellites in low-Earth orbit over Southern Africa are already showing
      signs of radiation damage suffered as a result of the Earth's magnetic
      field weakening above our part of the planet. The field forms the magneto
      sphere, which, like the Earth's ozone layer, protects the planet from the
      sun's harmful radiation.

      Other symptoms destined to become apparent in the years ahead include the
      aurora australis, or southern lights. Usually seen only over the South
      Pole, these will become visible closer to the equator as the Earth's
      magnetic field weakens and disappears. Eventually, on past form, the field
      will reappear but with magnetic north and south pole changing places, as
      they have done for billions of years.

      According to an article in the New York Times this week, the change will
      be devastating for migratory animals such as loggerhead turtles, which use
      the Earth's magnetic field to migrate 8 000km around the Atlantic. Bees,
      swallows, cranes, salmon, homing pigeons, frogs and eagles may also lose
      their way between breeding and feeding grounds.

      Humans will suffer, too. The (temporary) disappearance of the magnetic
      field ahead of its reversal will lead to increased occurrences of
      radiation-induced cancer, Kotze said.

      Commenting on the New York Times report, Kotze said that the decay in the
      Earth's magnetic field was becoming increasingly apparent in "the South
      Atlantic anomaly", a huge deviation in the Earth's magnetic field
      discovered with the help of the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory.

      This month, the European Space Agency (ESA) approved a multimillion-euro
      space mission, called Swarm, to measure the anomaly, which stretches from
      Southern Africa towards South America.

      The ESA's scientists believe that this anomaly, as revealed by the
      occasional "geomagnetic jerk" to which our part of the world is prone,
      will provide a clue to predicting the next "flip" in the Earth's magnetic
      field, now 250 000 years overdue - as these things go. Three ESA
      satellites, flying in low-Earth orbit (400km to 500km up) after their
      launch in 2009, will measure the variation over Southern Africa.

      The observatory has also recorded a faster-growing deviation between true
      north and magnetic north over Southern Africa during the past 10 years,
      drifting steadily westward. Taken together, the blip and this drift point
      to an imminent reversal in the Earth's north-south magnetic alignment.

      "We should be able to work out the first predictions by the end of the
      [Swarm] mission," Gauthier Hulot, an ESA geophysicist and a colleague of
      Kotze's, told the New York Times.

      The discovery of the "anomalous field behaviour over Southern Africa" drew
      wide attention, reported the US newspaper, because "it seemed consistent
      with what the [ESA's] computer simulations identified as the possible
      beginnings of a flip".

      Kotze said that, "these are all indications that we have conditions
      similar to the last reversal, 780 000 years ago. So it means that we are
      due for another one soon." In geological terms, however, "soon" could mean
      anytime between tomorrow and the next 3 000 years.

      Kotze said the anomaly was the result of "things happening" far below the
      Earth's surface.

      At the boundary between the mantle and the outer core (more than 3 000km
      below Southern Africa) disruptions were occurring in the flow of the
      Earth's liquid outer core (mostly iron), he explained. This created "a
      reverse dynamo situation", which is becoming increasingly apparent as
      variations in the magnetic field above the Earth's surface.

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