The giant underground iron river, located in the northern hemisphere, is three times faster than normal. It is a behavior never seen before that can explain what happens with the magnetism of planet Earth.
Something mysterious is happening in the depths of planet Earth, a liquid iron river almost as hot as the surface of the Sun, located 3,000 kilometers deep between Russia and Canada, is running faster and faster. Scientists cannot explain why.
This is the conclusion the researchers reached after analyzing the readings made to Earth’s magnetic field since the year 2000, when the river was discovered. The reason for this change in behavior is still unknown, however, indicating that it is a natural phenomenon that is already a billion years old and that can help to understand the formation of the magnetic field, a shield of the Earth against the solar winds.
This river is 420 kilometers wide and its speed has tripled compared to data collected 16 years ago. This velocity is now three times higher than what is generally observed in the magma currents that exist in the outer core of the Earth, the layer of the planet whose movements of the liquid material (composed essentially of iron) are responsible for creating a magnetic field.
Lately, the giant river has been circulating westwards, averaging between 40 and 45 kilometers more, per year, even below Siberia, towards Europe.
This recent discovery was made possible by the latest operations of the Swarm satellites, a set of three probes sent by the European Space Agency (ESA) in the year 2013, capable of measuring variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. These variations can be detected by studying what happens at the boundary between the inner core of the Earth (with solid-state material) and the outer core of the planet in the liquid state.
With only three satellites, it is possible to do this analysis in the core-mantle boundary, because we can thus detect any perturbations caused by the crust or the ionosphere.
The river was discovered to have noticed two particularly strong magnetic “bags”. One is under Siberia, the other under Canada, and both seem to originate from the boundary between the mantle and the Earth’s core. It would not be surprising if the bags were not moving, it meant that there could be a flow of liquid iron to originate them.
“It’s like finding out which side a river moves by putting candles in the water and watching at night to which side they go. As the iron moves, it drags the magnetic field with it. With satellites, we cannot see the flow, but we can see the movement of these bags”, explained Phil Livermore, the scientist who coordinated the team, to New Scientist.
Livermore also explained that there may be a similar flow in the southern hemisphere, but since these “bags” do not exist (or have not yet been found), it is impossible to confirm this hypothesis. Not impossible, but still very difficult, is to understand where the acceleration of this river comes from.
Scientists think it may be related to a discovery made in the year 2005 when it was proven that the movement of the inner core was progressively faster than that of the crust. It may also be probable that it is not the river to influence the magnetic field movements, but rather the field to influence the characteristics of the river of liquid iron.
The Earth’s magnetic field seems to be increasingly active since 1840.