The Earth’s core cooling faster than anticipated — an alarming finding, but one that’s not likely to impact humans’ immediate future, according to a new study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
The results suggest that Earth is “cooling and becoming inactive much faster than expected,” the study’s lead author, professor Motohiko Murakami at ETH Zurich.
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Scientists reached their conclusion by measuring the conductivity of the mineral bridgmanite from the Earth’s core to its mantle.
There they found that bulk thermal conductivity at the core-mantle boundary was about 1.5 times higher than previously expected. Simply put: The Earth’s core, which scientists say has been cooling for the past 4.5 billion years of its existence, is cooling more quickly than previously expected.
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“This perspective raises the question as to how fast the Earth has been losing heat throughout the Earth’s history, which directly links to the fundamental question on how long the Earth will remain dynamically active,” Murakami and his team wrote.
The molten iron in the Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that helps protect the planet from cosmic radiation and charged particles emitted by the sun, according to NASA.
When the Earth’s core cools and solidifies, researchers say, that magnetic field will disappear and the planet will become similar to Mars, “affecting every planetary process as we know it,”.
The research team did not say in the paper when that might happen.
“How long the Earth would remain dynamically active would be definitely one of the biggest issues that we have to tackle,” Murakami told Newsweek. “However, the time scale that would fit to this discussion should be millions or even billions of years.”