Geology & Geophysics AGU News

The Wobbly Anomaly and Other Magnetic Weirdness

From the connection between Earth’s core and life on the surface, way out to the ends of the solar system, this month’s issue of Eos takes a look at the study of magnetic fields.

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“I always find it fascinating that something happening in such a remote, faraway place—Earth’s core—can have a profound impact on our lives way out on the surface,” said Julie Bowles as she helped us develop this issue. Bowles is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and Eos’s science adviser for AGU’s Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism, and Electromagnetism section.

We dug into the impact Earth’s magnetic field has on all of us for our January issue of Eos. A big reason we thought the topic was worth an entire issue is, as Bowles said, “there is a lot of interesting crossover between the magnetism community and many other Earth science communities.” Indeed, this topic was originally suggested by Carol Stein, at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Eos’s science adviser for AGU’s Tectonophysics section, who noted the importance of understanding magnetism for so many scientists throughout AGU’s sections.

You can flip through these pages to see that convergence. Manasvi Lingam starts us off with an appropriately poetic introduction for a discussion about a force we cannot see generated by a core we cannot reach and how that has created unique conditions for the only place in the universe where we know life exists. “Resolving the riddle” of these relationships, writes Lingam, requires knowledge from geology, astronomy, plasma physics, microbiology, evolutionary biology, and myriad other disciplines.

The ideas raised here lead us into another fascinating discussion about “how pervasive magmatism is throughout the solar system,” said Stein. So we offer you “A Field Guide to the Magnetic Solar System.” This tourist excursion leads you from Mercury out to the ice giants and explains what your magnetic compass will show you at each destination and what that means about the planet beneath your feet. We hope you enjoy this interplanetary adventure.

Finally, we couldn’t cover studies of the magnetic field without recognizing how truly strange it is. In “The Herky-Jerky Weirdness of Earth’s Magnetic Field,” we take a look at the big dent known as the South Atlantic Anomaly, the origin of so-called geomagnetic jerks, and other oddities, “some of which have important societal implications,” according to Bowles.

Unlike our pal Dr. Conrad Zimsky—did you really think I’d get all the way through this without a reference to The Core?—we know our understanding of geomagnetism is a lot better than “a best guess.” We eagerly look forward to seeing more in this rapidly advancing science and covering it here in the pages of Eos.

—Heather Goss (@heathermg), Editor in Chief

Citation: Goss, H. (2020), The wobbly anomaly and other magnetic weirdness, Eos, 101, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EO152667. Published on 21 December 2020.
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