Solar Storm
An undated artist's rendering depicts a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere in this NASA handout released November 5, 2015. Reuters/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Centre/Handout

A new study has shown how Earth’s magnetic field is changing continuously, getting weaker at some areas while strengthening over some parts of the world. Earth’s magnetic field acts as a protection from cosmic radiation and solar winds. The changes have been closely studied by European Space Agency’s (ESA) trio of Earth-facing satellites, the Swarm satellites, launched more than two years ago, and data provided by them also shows that our planet’s magnetic North Pole is drifting.

In April, a study was published in the journal Science Advances, which stated that global warming is changing Earth’s axis and that the North Pole that has drifted towards Canada for decades is now shifting towards UK. There was a shift in the drift about 15 years ago. It is now drifting directly down the Greenwich Meridian. Climate change and global warming are shifting the way our Earth wobbles.

The Earth’s spin is a constant thing in our lives. The spin causes day to become night and the process has been going on for millions of years. While the process will still be in place, melting ice has caused a drift in polar motion, which is the periodic drift and wobble of the poles. Polar motion is extremely important in understanding past and future climate and enables satellite communications and GPS calculations. Changes in weight distribution of Earth are mainly due to the melting ice sheets in Greenland.

When scientists studied a young, Sun-like star Kappa Ceti, they discovered that magnetic field plays a crucial role in making a planet fit for life. According to them, life on Earth was made possible because of the presence of protective magnetic field. It was definitely one of the most important factors apart from a blanketing atmosphere, liquid water and Earth’s rocky surface.

Now, new data by Swarm satellites suggest how changes in magnetic field of Earth may determine how space events such as solar storms will affect life in future. Scientists may have an answer why Earth’s magnetic field is becoming weaker and weaker. The magnetic field is losing five percent of its strength every decade, suggests ESA. This rate is ten times faster than initially thought.

One possible reason for such massive fluctuations in magnetic field is that our planet’s poles are getting ready to flip. This happens every 100,000 years or so. ESA researchers have shown that since 1999, magnetic field over the top of North America has weakened by 3.5 percent, and that over Asia has strengthened by roughly two percent. Thus, the researchers are certain that the North Pole is drifting towards the Asian Continent quite fast.

“Swarm data are now enabling us to map detailed changes in Earth's magnetic field, not just at Earth's surface but also down at the edge of its source region in the core. Unexpectedly, we are finding rapid localised field changes that seem to be a result of accelerations of liquid metal flowing within the core,” said Chris Finlay, who led the ESA project.