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Environment

May 28, 2020 - The European Space Agency

Swarm probes weakening of Earth’s magnetic field

Swarm probes weakening of Earth’s magnetic field
South Atlantic Anomaly (blue area)Credit: ESA

In an area stretching from Africa to South America, Earth’s magnetic field is gradually weakening. This strange behaviour has geophysicists puzzled and is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth. Scientists are using data from ESA’s Swarm constellation to improve our understanding of this area known as the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly.’

Earth’s magnetic field is vital to life on our planet. It is a complex and dynamic force that protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles from the Sun. The magnetic field is largely generated by an ocean of superheated, swirling liquid iron that makes up the outer core around 3000 km beneath our feet. Acting as a spinning conductor in a bicycle dynamo, it creates electrical currents, which in turn, generate our continuously changing electromagnetic field.

This field is far from static and varies both in strength and direction. For example, recent studies have shown that the position of the north magnetic pole is changing rapidly.

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The European Space Agency


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