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There is an invisible force protecting us, keeping our atmosphere in place. Without it, life on Earth would be over very quickly. I’ll play with the music or a dramitic soundup to ramp up the drama. It would be harsh and fatal, pure chaos. Would there be any chance of surviving such a catastrophe?

How does the Earth’s magnetic field protect us? How is this magnetic field created? Could we survive if it disappeared?

The Earth’s magnetic field protects us by deflecting much of the incoming solar radiation. Without it, our atmosphere would be stripped by solar winds. We’d be bombarded with vast amounts of radiation. Life as we know it would be over. This would force us underground, living out the rest of our days in concrete bunkers.
But how is this important magnetic field even created?

Earth has a solid inner iron core and a temperature of 5,700°C (10,300°F). The surrounding core is a cooler liquid, mainly consisting of iron and nickel. Differences in temperature, pressure, and composition cause the hot, less dense material to rise toward the outer core.

Simultaneously, the cooler, denser material falls back down to its solid core. The high pressure of the Earth prevents it from becoming a sphere of liquid.

At the same time, the Earth’s rotation creates the Coriolis effect, which produces whirlpools in the liquid iron. This generates electric currents that in turn produce magnetic fields. As the electrically charged metals in the liquid core pass through these fields, they create their own electric currents. This never ending cycle allows us to continue with our shielded, earthly existence.

So what would happen if Earth’s magnetic field just disappeared? Could we survive? Well, brace yourself.

Imagine, it starts with Electromagnetic interference (EMI), or radio-frequency interference (RFI). Your TV cuts out. Birds begin to act strangely, dropping from the sky, flying into windows. By the way, no birds were injured in the making of this video. Airplanes lose power and begin to plummet, while others are making dramatic landings.

Electricity is compromised, with blackouts all over the world. And now there you are, sitting in the dark, staring at the sky. Suddenly, auroras appear in places never before seen, at lower altitudes and close to the equator. Solar winds are bombarding the atmosphere.

As the pressure decreases, you will find it hard to breathe. The temperature will start to drop. Atmospheric gases that keep the planet stable are ripped away. The low atmospheric pressure will cause water to vaporize and eventually disappear.

So here you are on a planet with no atmosphere or water. Radiation starts to penetrate your body. If you live long enough, you might develop cancer.

But for now, you have the symptoms of acute radiation sickness. You feel faint and confused, nauseous, and you start bleeding from your gums. The last thing you see are satellites tumbling wildly through the sky in a nightmarish display. Death would be a welcome escape from this global madness.

Okay, inhale a big yogic breath and exhale your anxiety, since this is likely an impossible scenario. The Earth’s magnetic field is always constantly changing. It has weakened by about 3.5% at high latitudes over North America, while it has strengthened about 2% over Asia.

And between South America and Africa, there’s an area called the South Atlantic Anomaly, where scientists find the weakest magnetic field anywhere on Earth. Three times weaker than at the poles. Nobody knows what is causing this oddity, nor why the Earth’s magnetic field has mysteriously lost 30% of its intensity in the last 3,000 years.

Catastrophic events caused by the magnetic field suddenly disappearing are likely not in our future. The closest we could come is having the Earth’s magnetic fields flip, in a gradual way. This happens an average of once every 200,000 years. Although the last flip occurred about 780,000 years ago, so we are definitely overdue.

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Now that you watched the episode and read the article, it is time to test your knowledge. Click “next” to see how much you learnt:
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Shailendra Singh
4 years ago

Wow just liked it

4 years ago

I love What If ! I’m a huge fan and it’s my favorite way to learn English, beacause What If science topics are Amazing !
It is always a pleasure to learn new things thanks to very relevant animations. Moreover, the wide range of topics you cover makes it possible to continually attract my curiosity! Keep up the good work!

If I may, I would like to advise you the subject: How to survive without What If!

Florent from France !

4 years ago

I won the quiz 👍❤️🇮🇳

Prateek Chaubey
4 years ago

I also got 4/4 👍❤️ 🇮🇳

4 years ago

Yes. This is correct. Scientifically correct. The magnetic field of the earth is protecting us. Without it, life on Earth would be over very quickly. It would be harsh and fatal, pure chaos. But What if we would send humans on the moon? The moon has not magnetic field. Would they be able to walk , jump and after being exposed to the solar winds for so many hours, would they be able to return back to earth without problems?

Shivansh Mehra
4 years ago

I got 4/4!

4 years ago

I got 3/4. 🙂

4 years ago

I win . From India

4 years ago

I won the quiz.

Junyi Lee
4 years ago


Kamiab kafi
4 years ago

I got 4/4, Alhamdulillah.

Pamela Cassaro
4 years ago

3 outta 4, not so bad, I messed up. Lol, better luck next time. Thanks, What if?

4 years ago

Amazing! Loved it. Didn’t know you guys have a website. Glad I found it. 😍

4 years ago

I got 3/4 without watching the video

4 years ago

I got 2/4. 🙁