Earth Has Another Magnetic Field | Summary and Q&A

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January 30, 2021
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Earth Has Another Magnetic Field

TL;DR

Earth's oceans create a weak magnetic field due to the flow of charge from ions in the saltwater, and studying this field can help us understand ocean currents and the movement of heat, as well as potentially detect hidden underground oceans on other planets and moons.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How is Earth's primary magnetic field generated?

Earth's primary magnetic field is generated by the flow of molten metal in the Earth's outer core, which creates a magnetic field due to the movement of electric charge.

Q: How do Earth's oceans generate a second magnetic field?

Earth's oceans contain ions from dissolved minerals, and when the salty, ionic water flows through the planet's magnetic field, it creates weak electric currents and its own magnetic field.

Q: What significance does the detection of the oceanic magnetic field hold?

Detecting and studying the oceanic magnetic field can help map ocean currents, understand the movement of heat in the oceans, and predict the effects of climate change by tracking where excess heat is going.

Q: How can the detection of oceanic magnetic fields be useful beyond Earth?

Faint magnetic signals observed from icy planets and moons could indicate the presence of hidden underground oceans, as perturbations in their magnetic fields have been observed around Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Io.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Earth's primary magnetic field is generated by molten metal in the Earth's outer core, but scientists have also discovered a second magnetic field generated by the flow of charge in Earth's oceans.

  • The oceans contain ions from dissolved minerals, and when these ionic waters flow through Earth's magnetic field, they create weak electric currents and their own magnetic field.

  • The detection of the oceanic magnetic field in 2018 by the European Space Agency's SWARM satellites allows for the mapping of ocean currents and better understanding of heat distribution, as well as the potential detection of underground oceans on other celestial bodies.

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