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Magnetic Flip Can Happen in Human LIfetime: Study October 24, 2014
Magnetic North Pole Graphic
The Magnetic North Pole has drifted around Arctic Canada since measurements of its location began.
Earth’s magnetic field has the potential to reverse within less than a century, and scientists say there is evidence the poles are now moving toward such a flip.

Scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkley, say they made the conclusions by looking at paleomagnetic data in sediment around the volcanoes of southern Italy.

Ash layers from prehistoric eruptions captured and stored magnetic field information in sediment as it accumulated at the bottom of an ancient lake.

Those layers reveal the last magnetic reversal occurred approximately 786,000 years ago, long before humans walked the planet.

The flip happened after more than 6,000 years of instability, including two intervals of low magnetic field strength that lasted about 2,000 years each.

Such a quiet period in modern times could expose Earth’s surface to harmful levels of solar radiation, possibly increasing the rates of cancer and disrupting electrical power grids, scientists caution.

Graphic: Earthweek