Earth’s Magnetic Area Flipped 42,000 Years In the past. The Penalties Had been Dramatic

A worldwide interval of upheaval 42,000 years in the past was the results of a reversal in Earth’s magnetic subject, new analysis has discovered.

In line with radiocarbon preserved in historic tree rings, a number of centuries’ price of local weather breakdown, mass extinctions, and even adjustments in human behaviour may be instantly linked to the final time Earth’s magnetic subject modified its polarity.


The analysis crew has named the interval the Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Occasion, or Adams Occasion, after sci-fi author Douglas Adams, who famously declared the quantity 42 the final word reply to life, the Universe, and every thing.

“For the primary time ever, we’ve got been capable of exactly date the timing and environmental impacts of the final magnetic pole change,” mentioned Earth scientist Chris Turney of the College of New South Wales in Australia. 

“The findings had been made doable with historic New Zealand kauri timber, which have been preserved in sediments for over 40,000 years. Utilizing the traditional timber we might measure, and date, the spike in atmospheric radiocarbon ranges attributable to the collapse of Earth’s magnetic subject.”

This most up-to-date interval of magnetic reversal is called the Laschamp occasion, and it’s what we name a geomagnetic tour. That is when the planet’s magnetic poles briefly swap locations earlier than returning to their authentic positions. It is some of the effectively studied of Earth’s magnetic subject occasions, recorded by ferromagnetic minerals.

It passed off round 41,000 years in the past, and lasted for round 800 years. Precisely what influence this occasion had on life on the planet was unclear, although – so when scientists uncovered an historic kauri tree (Agathis australis) in 2019 that had been alive throughout this time interval, they seized on the prospect to be taught extra.


That is as a result of timber report atmospheric exercise of their annual progress rings. Specifically, carbon-14, or radiocarbon, can reveal plenty of details about celestial exercise.

Radiocarbon solely happens on Earth in hint quantities in comparison with the opposite naturally occurring carbon isotopes. It is fashioned within the higher environment underneath the bombardment of cosmic rays from area. When these rays enter the environment, they work together with the native nitrogen atoms to set off a nuclear response that produces radiocarbon.

Since cosmic rays are continuously streaming by area, Earth receives a roughly regular provide of radiocarbon. Due to this fact, a spike in radiocarbon in tree rings tells us that Earth had higher publicity to radiocarbon throughout that yr.

When Earth’s magnetic subject is weakened, because it was throughout the Laschamp occasion, extra cosmic rays penetrate by to the environment to supply extra radiocarbon. Due to this, scientists had beforehand been capable of verify that Earth’s magnetic subject had weakened to about 28 % of its regular energy throughout that 800-year interval.

The kauri tree, nonetheless, allowed the analysis crew to review the years main as much as the Laschamp occasion. They discovered that the Adams occasion passed off from about 42,200 years in the past, and the magnetic subject was at its weakest level earlier than the Laschamp occasion.


“Earth’s magnetic subject dropped to solely 0-6 % energy throughout the Adams Occasion,” Turney defined. “We primarily had no magnetic subject in any respect – our cosmic radiation defend was completely gone.”

Throughout this time, the Solar’s magnetic subject would even have weakened a number of occasions, because it, too, skilled magnetic reversal as a part of its common cycle. These intervals see much less sunspot and flare exercise, however the Solar’s magnetic subject additionally supplies Earth with a measure of safety from cosmic rays – so, throughout these photo voltaic minima, cosmic ray bombardment would have elevated once more.

This weakened magnetic subject would have triggered substantial adjustments in Earth’s atmospheric ozone, with dramatic penalties, together with electrical storms and spectacular aurorae, and local weather change world wide.

“Unfiltered radiation from area ripped aside air particles in Earth’s environment, separating electrons and emitting gentle – a course of known as ionisation,” Turney mentioned.

“The ionised air ‘fried’ the ozone layer, triggering a ripple of local weather change throughout the globe.”

That is in line with local weather and environmental adjustments from this time noticed in different information from throughout the globe, such because the mysterious extinction of Australia’s megafauna.


Curiously, it additionally coincides with a few of our oldest cave artwork on report, prompting the researchers to hypothesise that the Adams Occasion might have pushed people indoors.

“This sudden behavioural shift in very completely different elements of the world is in line with an rising or modified use of caves throughout the Adams Occasion, doubtlessly as shelter from the rise of ultraviolet B, doubtlessly to dangerous ranges, throughout grandsolar minima or photo voltaic energetic particles, which could additionally clarify an elevated use of purple ochre sunscreen,” they wrote of their paper.

That is considerably speculative, after all, nevertheless it suggests {that a} geomagnetic reversal is usually a significantly world-altering occasion. And up to date proof has prompt that we’re at present on the verge of one other.

This, the researchers say, may very well be completely disastrous within the present local weather.

“Our environment is already crammed with carbon at ranges by no means seen by humanity earlier than. A magnetic pole reversal or excessive change in Solar exercise can be unprecedented local weather change accelerants,” Turney mentioned.

“We urgently have to get carbon emissions down earlier than such a random occasion occurs once more.”

The analysis has been revealed in Science.


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