The research could help scientists predict future geomagnetic shifts.

Magnetic Anomaly

An international team of researchers dug through hundreds of years worth of data about the Earth's magnetic field — and found something strange.

The team found a "magnetic field anomaly" in Southeast Asia roughly 800 years ago, a discovery that could help scientists better understand the future behavior of our planet's magnetic field. In fact, there is a non-zero chance that we are headed towards a flip of the Earth's magnetic field. While unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, such an event could pose a significant threat to life on Earth.

Recorded in Iron

By analyzing special iron objects, known as Tonle Bak, fabricated between the 11th and 14th century in modern day Cambodia, part of the Khmer Empire at the time, the team was able to glean a perfectly preserved record of the magnetic field in the area.

Looking at the data, the magnetic field in the continent changed direction by almost .05 degrees and inclination from about 30 to just five degrees. The intensity of the field also dropped significantly.

The research could help scientists predict future geomagnetic shifts, although they have yet to discover the exact cause of what they refer to as a "flux expulsion."

Future Variations

"Understanding variations of the field in the past, especially during the Holocene, is helpful for deciphering modern geomagnetic behaviors or even predicting future variations," the team writes in their paper published in the  journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

"The geomagnetic field contains information about interior dynamics of the Earth and is closely related to human beings on maintaining a habitable planet," the paper reads.

READ MORE: Evidence found of regional magnetic field anomaly in Southeast Asia 800 years ago [Science X Network]

More on the Earth's magnetic field: Scientists: Earth's Magnetic Field Could Shift 100x Faster Than Observed

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