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Earth's magnetic shield defends our planet from the scourges of solar wind and cosmic radiation, making life on our planet possible. But every 10 years or so, it can be a real jerk.
"Geomagnetic jerks" are abrupt changes in the strength of Earth's magnetic field. While some variations in this field are expected to occur gradually, over hundreds to thousands of years, these sudden wobbles in intensity last only a few years at most, and may only alter the Earth's magnetism over specific parts of the world at a time. One of the first jerks documented, for example, briefly warped the field over Western Europe in 1969.
Study - Today - April - Nature - Geoscience
Now, a new study published today (April 22) in the journal Nature Geoscience offers a potential explanation. According to a new computer model of the core's physical behavior, geomagnetic jerks may be generated by buoyant blobs of molten matter released from deep inside the core.
Who's the jerk?
Study - Researchers - Computer - Model - Conditions
In the new study, the researchers built a computer model that painstakingly recreates the physical conditions of Earth's outer core, and shows its evolution over several decades. After the equivalent of 4 million hours of calculations (sped up thanks to a French supercomputer), the core simulation was able to generate geomagnetic jerks that closely aligned with actual jerks observed over the last few decades.
These simulated jerks jiggled the magnetosphere every 6 to 12 years in the model — however, the events seemed to originate from buoyant anomalies that formed in the planet's core 25 years earlier. As those blobs of molten matter approached the outer surface of the core, they generated...
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