When we think of the jet stream, we tend to think of the one in Earth’s atmosphere that affects weather patterns around the world. However, there are other instances of the jet stream affect in our world – one that is buried deep beneath the surface of the Earth.
The European Space Agency has satellite data that shows in greater detail the magnetic activity happening at and around the Earth’s core. We know very little about the behavior of the Earth’s core, as there is 3,000 kilometers of rock obscuring it from us. With satellite-based sensors, researchers have been able to detect the magnetic field from the Earth’s core and track its changes.
Launched by the European Space Agency in 2013, three Swarm satellites measure the magnetic fields that comes from the Earth’s core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere, and magnetosphere. Earth’s core emits a magnetic field because it is a superheated mass of liquid iron. As the liquid swirls under the Earth’s crust, it creates electrical currents. This can be detected as a magnetic field by the Swarm satellites.
The Swarm satellite confirmed previously held theories about the behavior of the liquid core; mainly, that the outer layer of the liquid moved at a faster rate than the center. Researchers have noticed that there are two specific areas where the magnetic field changes the most. Alaska and Siberia are two areas where researchers have determined there is an underground jet stream affect occurring. This jet stream moves at about 40 kilometers an hour, which is faster than the average outer core speed and hundreds of thousands of times faster than the speed of Earth’s tectonic plates.
Researchers from the university of Leeds published an article in the journal Nature GeoScience with data gathered by the Swarm satellites. They discussed the existence of a molten core jet stream using changes in the magnetic field as well as put together previously gathered data about the Earth’s core.
- Livermore, P. W., Hollerbach, R., & Finlay, C. C. (2017). An accelerating high-latitude jet in Earth’s core. Nature Geosci, 10(1), 62–68.
- There’s a jet stream in our core. European Space Agency. December 19, 2016.