How often do Earth’s magnetic poles flip?

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Earth’s magnetic poles have reversed about once every 200,000 to 300,000 years, with the last major reversal occurring 780,000 years ago. Despite some predictions, scientists do not believe the next reversal will cause catastrophe. However, it could affect the planet’s protection from solar and cosmic radiation, and could confuse animals that use the magnetic field for navigation.

Over the past 20 million years, magnetic north and magnetic south have changed places about once every 200,000 to 300,000 years, according to evidence culled from ancient rocks. However, the last major reversal — when magnetic north pointed to Antarctica rather than the Arctic — occurred about 780,000 years ago, so Earth may be overdue for another reversal. This geomagnetic process is related to the motion of our planet’s rotating iron core. Despite some apocalyptic predictions, most scientists don’t think that the next total reversal of the magnetic poles will spell catastrophe for the Earth. The reversal would happen over hundreds or thousands of years and may not happen anytime soon.

An upside down world (magnetically, at least):

Magnetic fields are transforming, pushing and pulling each other all the time. Some scientists say that climate change may be related to this change.
The planet’s magnetic field helps protect humans from solar and cosmic radiation. A sustained flip could mean Earth would be slightly less protected from harmful space rays.
Animals such as birds, salmon and sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation and could be confused during an inversion. But scientists see no evidence that it would lead to mass extinctions.

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