Deep within the Earth, a fierce molten core is generating a magnetic field capable of defending our planet against devastating solar winds.
The protective field extends thousands of miles into space and its magnetism affects everything from global communication to animal migration and weather patterns.
But this magnetic field, so important to life on Earth, has weakened by 15 per cent over the last 200 years. And this, scientists claim, could be a sign that the Earth’s poles are about to flip.
Experts believe we're currently overdue a flip, but they're unsure when this could occur.
If a switch happens, we would be exposed to solar winds capable of punching holes into the ozone layer.
The impact could be devastating for mankind, knocking out power grids, radically changing Earth’s climate and driving up rates of cancer.
‘This is serious business’, Richard Holme, Professor of Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences at Liverpool University told MailOnline.
‘Imagine for a moment your electrical power supply was knocked out for a few months – very little works without electricity these days.’
The Earth's climate would change drastically. In fact, a recent Danish study believes global warming is directly related to the magnetic field rather than CO2 emissions.
The study claimed that the planet is experiencing a natural period of low cloud cover due to fewer cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.
Radiation at ground level would also increase, with some estimates suggesting overall exposure to cosmic radiation would double causing more deaths from cancer.
Researchers predict that in the event of a flip, every year a hundred thousand people would die from the increased levels of space radiation.
'Radiation could be 3-5 times greater than that from the man-made ozone holes.
Furthermore, the ozone holes would be larger and longer-lived,' said Dr Colin Forsyth from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL.
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