Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Revisiting the Biological Ramifications of Variations in Earth's Magnetic Field

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 9, 2019
Filed under
Revisiting the Biological Ramifications of Variations in Earth's Magnetic Field

An Earth-like planetary magnetic field has been widely invoked as a requirement for habitability as it purportedly mitigates the fluxes of ionizing radiation reaching the surface and the escape of neutrals and ions from the atmosphere.

Recent paleomagnetic evidence indicates that the nucleation of Earth’s inner core, followed perhaps by an increase in geomagnetic field strength, might have occurred close to the Edicarian period. Motivated by this putative discovery, we explore the ensuing ramifications from the growth or reversals of Earth’s dynamo. By reviewing and synthesizing emerging quantitative models, it is proposed that neither the biological radiation dose rates nor the atmospheric escape rates would vary by more than a factor of ∼2 under these circumstances.

Hence, we suggest that hypotheses seeking to explain the Cambrian radiation or mass extinctions via changes in Earth’s magnetic field intensity are potentially unlikely. We also briefly discuss how variations in the planetary magnetic field may have impacted early Mars and could influence exoplanets orbiting M-dwarfs.

Manasvi Lingam
(Submitted on 6 Apr 2019)

Comments: Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters; 7 pages; 0 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Geophysics (physics.geo-ph)
Journal reference: The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 874, L28 (2019)
DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab12eb
Cite as: arXiv:1904.03353 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1904.03353v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Manasvi Lingam
[v1] Sat, 6 Apr 2019 03:49:35 UTC (64 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻