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No. 49: Jan-Feb 1987

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Geomagnetic Reversals From Impacts On The Earth

R.A. Muller and D.E. Morris review the evidence tying geomagnetic reversals to the impacts of large bodies with the earth: the tektites and microtektites; the climate changes; the biological extinctions, etc. Then they propose a physical mechanism for geomagnetic reversals:

"The impact of a large extraterrestrial object on the Earth can produce a geomagnetic reversal through the following mechanism: dust from the impact crater and soot from fires trigger a climate change and the beginning of a little ice age. The redistribution of water near the equator to ice at high latitudes alters the rotation rate of the crust and mantle of the Earth. If the sea-level change is sufficiently large ( 10 meters) and rapid (in a few hundred years), then the velocity shear in the liquid core disrupts the convective cells that drive the dynamo. The new convective cells that subsequently form distort and tangle the previous field, reducing the dipole component near to zero while increasing the energy in multipole components. Eventually a dipole is rebuilt by dynamo action, and the event is seen either as a geomagnetic reversal or as an excursion."

(Muller, Richard A., and Morris, Donald E.; "Geomagnetic Reversals from Impacts on the Earth," Geophysical Research Letters, 13:1177, 1986.)

Comment. That the earth's field is generated by internal dynamo action is still a theory, although a widely accepted one.

From Science Frontiers #49, JAN-FEB 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987