the best science on the web about
pole reversals

It Happens All the (Geologic) Time
Image: NASA

It Happens All the (Geologic) Time

North is south, and south is north? That was so some 800,000 years ago when Earth’s magnetic poles reversed.

We’re overdue for another pole reversal. But you won’t feel any effects: It takes hundreds or thousands of years. Explore this phenomenon and what it tells us about the history of life on our planet.


NASA
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Seafloor Spreading Activity

Seafloor Spreading Activity

When the seafloor spreads and creates new rock, its iron-rich minerals align with the magnetic poles like a compass needle. Quiz yourself on a changing polarity point of view. More...

Interactive
NOAA
The Earth Has More Than One North Pole

The Earth Has More Than One North Pole

Would you believe our planet has 5 north poles? Only the magnetic pole flips. But one thing is certain: Santa needs to be clearer about his address. More...

Article
Scientific American
When Compasses Point South

When Compasses Point South

Earth is not alone in its shifting magnetic polarity. Investigate the frequency and effects of Earth’s magnetic pole pointing south, plus the questions that haunt the scientists. More...

Article
NOVA/PBS
Animal Magnetism

Animal Magnetism

Migrating sea turtles and other creatures rely on the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way across great distances. So what happens when a magnetic reversal occurs? More...

Article
NOVA/PBS
Magnetic Field Reversal

Magnetic Field Reversal

A geologist discovered in 1906 that Earth's magnetic fields had reversed. Watch to learn what was inside a lava flow that provided a fossilized snapshot of a magnetic field in action. More...

Video
Science Channel
PacSci-Doku: Direction Finder

PacSci-Doku: Direction Finder

Think you know which force helps us find our way? Play this Sudoku-inspired game to check your answer. More...

Game
Pacific Science Center
Reversals of Earth’s Magnetic Field During the Past 160 Million Years

Reversals of Earth’s Magnetic Field During the Past 160 Million Years

Since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Jurassic Period, the poles have reversed more than a few times. This timeline will tell you more details. More...

Article
Windows to the Universe
Reversals of Earth’s Magnetic Field Explained by Small Core Fluctuations

Reversals of Earth’s Magnetic Field Explained by Small Core Fluctuations

Volcanic rocks have revealed when Earth’s magnetic fields reversed, but the reason has remained more mysterious. Investigate the mechanism that some scientists say explains why opposites attract. More...

Article
Phys.org
Reversals: Magnetic Flip

Reversals: Magnetic Flip

How often do reversals occur? Is there any danger to life? (Hint: Don't sweat it.) And how quickly do the poles flip? Get answers to these questions and more.
More...

Article
British Geological Survey
What Causes the Periodic Reversals of the Earth’s Magnetic Field?

What Causes the Periodic Reversals of the Earth’s Magnetic Field?

Because it’s impossible to reach the Earth’s liquid iron core, a physicist creates a computer model of the geodynamo, the mechanism that maintains our planet’s magnetic field. More...

Article
Scientific American
When Our Magnetic Field Flips

When Our Magnetic Field Flips

We may be undergoing a magnetic-field reversal now, not that you should notice any big change. But watch what happens during a reversal in this computer-model-generated animation. More...

Interactive
NOVA/PBS

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