NASA Explores Splitting “Dent” in Earth’s Protective Magnetic Shield [Video]

Earth’s magnetic field acts like a protective shield around the planet, repelling and trapping charged particles from the Sun. But over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean, an unusually weak spot in the field – called the South Atlantic Anomaly, or SAA – allows these particles to dip closer to the surface than normal.

Currently, the SAA creates no visible impacts on daily life on the surface. However, recent observations and forecasts show that the region is expanding westward and continuing to weaken in intensity. It is also splitting – recent data shows the anomaly’s valley, or region of minimum field strength, has split into two lobes, creating additional challenges for satellite missions.

The South Atlantic Anomaly is also of interest to NASA’s Earth scientists who monitor the changes in magnetic strength there, both for how such changes affect Earth’s atmosphere and as an indicator of what’s happening to Earth’s magnetic fields, deep inside the globe.

Read NASA Tracking Slowly Splitting “Dent” in Earth’s Magnetic Field to learn more about the evolving dent in Earth’s magnetic field.

10 Comments on "NASA Explores Splitting “Dent” in Earth’s Protective Magnetic Shield [Video]"

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  4. Could it be a start of reversing magnetic poles?

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 20, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Reply

      Not really, AFAIK. It looks more like equatorial vs polar “reigning wind zones”.

      “European scientists think they can now describe with confidence what’s driving the drift of the North Magnetic Pole. … A team, led from Leeds University, says the behaviour is explained by the competition of two magnetic “blobs” on the edge of the Earth’s outer core.” [ ].

      – tbctd –

      [ I think there is a 1 link/comment limit here, so this will be a series of comments.]

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 20, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Reply

      – ctd-

      “Scientists say they have identified a remarkable new feature in Earth’s molten outer core. They describe it as a kind of “jet stream” – a fast-flowing river of liquid iron that is surging westwards under Alaska and Siberia. … The scientists say the feature probably aligns to a boundary between two different regions in the core.

      They call this boundary the “tangent cylinder”. They imagine this as a tube sitting around the solid inner core, running along Earth’s rotation axis. When liquid iron approaches the boundary from both sides, it gets squeezed out sideways to form the jet, which then hugs the imaginary tube.”

      [ ]

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 20, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Reply

      – ctd –


      “In any case, it’s not fully clear how those reversals might be tied to what’s currently going on with the South Atlantic Anomaly – which some have suggested could be caused by a vast reservoir of dense rock underneath Africa called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province.

      What is certain, though, is that the South Atlantic Anomaly is not sitting still. Since 1970, the anomaly has been growing in size, as well as moving westward at a pace of approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) per year. But that’s not all.

      New readings provided by the ESA’s Swarm satellites show that within the past five years, a second centre of minimum intensity has begun to open up within the anomaly.”
      [ ]

      – tbctd –

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 20, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Reply

      – ctd –

      “Age-progressive volcanism is generally accepted as the surface expression of deep-rooted mantle plumes, which are enigmatically linked with the African and Pacific large low–shear velocity provinces (LLSVPs). … We propose that extraction of large volumes of EMI-type mantle from the margin of the LLSVP by primary plume heads triggered upwelling of HIMU material from a more internal domain of the LLSVP, forming secondary plumes.”
      [ https://advances….eaba0282 ]

      The LLSVPs are major mysteries what with their primordial volatile isotope signatures and all, geodynamo poles not so much. Though of course “jet streams” and whatnot are interesting phenomena themselves.

  5. Sekar Vedaraman | August 19, 2020 at 9:23 pm | Reply


    Why depaend only on the PLanets magnetic field? Risk management would dictate that we devise alternate protective methodologies for the many objects we have placed in space upon which weare becoming increasingly dependent.

    Is it possible to equip current and future sattelites , with their own self-sustaining magnetic field generated on-board , whichare as powerfulor even better? This should help protect it from solar flares , and ensure that communication with earth are not affected.

    Satellites and spce ships also face risk from floating debris in space, of all different sizes and we need to develop risk avoidnce methodologies for such possible dangers.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | August 20, 2020 at 6:42 pm | Reply

      People are looking into radiation proofing, such as selecting the hardiest chips at production (expensive, and tend to select older less capable technologies), titanium shield boxes (such as for Juno orbiting Jupiter, which has a strong magnetic field which generates radiation; expensive, massive), and – yes – electromagnetic shields. Mind that energetic cosmic radiation is often harder to shield against (but less immediate deadly due to lower flux).

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