Recently, researchers have discovered that UV radiation caused by a polar shift may have taken out the Neanderthals. Scientists aren’t sure when the next big change in Earth’s magnetic fields will happen again, but it’s essential that we learn more about what to expect. Now, an unearthed ancient tree on New Zealand’s North Island is providing clues – the mighty kauri.
“This is the only known tree currently found anywhere in the world that spans this important time period,” said Alan Hogg, a researcher from the University of Waikato.
“This Ngāwhā kauri is unique.”
During work in Ngawha on a geothermal power plant, workers uncovered a “monster log” 26 feet down in the ground. The ancient tree, known to the Māori as kauri, lived over 41,000 years ago, living to an age of 1,500 years. It weighed over 60 tons and was over 52 feet long.
It was one of a vast kauri forest that once stood until humans arrived on the scene. Today, only 4 percent of the forest remains, cut down after Europeans arrived in 1820. The scientists suspect they may uncover more trees in the area.
The New Zealand Herald reports this tree is the “only tree found anywhere in the world that was alive during a mysterious shift in the world’s magnetic field.” That event was called the Laschamp geomagnetic anomaly, which researchers now suggest may have been a major factor in wiping out Neanderthals, vulnerable to UV radiation from the solar winds.
After Earth’s north and south magnetic poles reversed, it weakened the planet’s natural defense system. Now by analyzing the tree rings, scientists may pinpoint precisely how long the polar shift even took place and the changes over each year.
Ngawha swamp kauri is a beauty! Other subfossil wood @niwa_nz we will use for our @MarsdenFund project on abrupt climate change tipping points will anchor onto the Laschamp event. This unique tree captured something special! https://t.co/tvzm8wqezn @RMuscheler @Jamienzherald
— Drew Lorrey (@DLorrey) July 1, 2019
The researchers are measuring atmospheric radiocarbon levels from 40-ring blocks of wood to see how the levels changed over the life of the tree. What they find could tip us off on what to expect when the next shift occurs.
“If this were to occur at present, it would probably have significant implications for modern technology because very much stronger cosmic radiation impinging on the Earth’s surface would almost certainly impact upon satellites and communication,” said Hogg.
“We do not need to be alarmist over this, but it is important to know just how quickly these changes can occur.”
According to Newsweek:
“Magnetic field reversals happen at random intervals, although in the last 20 millions years it appears to have settled into a pattern, happening once every 200,000 to 300,000 years, NASA says. The last full reversal took place around 780,000 years ago.”
“Scientists recently announced the magnetic north pole had moved unexpectedly. Instead of tracking steadily from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia, it sped up so much that researchers had to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM)—a representation of Earth’s magnetic field that is used by GPS systems worldwide.”
Not only can ancient kauri trees provide information about the polar shift, but may also reveal clues about extinction events caused by climate change and prehistoric human migration.
The world’s largest living kauri tree is named Tāne Mahuta, standing 168 feet tall with a trunk girth of over 61 feet around. See this impressive giant below:
These ancient trees are said to have a life force that some people can feel when they are in their presence. A member of the Te Roroa tribe who protects the tree, Vanessa Rapira told the Guardian that visitors often have an emotional experience with Tāne Mahuta.
“Sometimes people are overwhelmed and end up crying,” said Rapira. “It is the energy that the visitors pick up, not only from Tāne Mahuta but also the surroundings,” she says.
Today, New Zealand is still fighting to protect the last of the living kauri trees, which are facing diebacks due to a disease carried on peoples’ shoes and by mammals. The trees, despite their size, have fragile root systems that can be easily disturbed, so some parks in New Zealand have had to close off access to trees.
The kauri was recently re-classified as a threatened species in 2018.
21 tracks across kauri land will be closed to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback. An additional 10 tracks will also be partially closed and the open sections upgraded to better protect the roots of kauri trees: https://t.co/qAD5OJgUln pic.twitter.com/10xi19wGb7
— Department of Conservation (@docgovtnz) October 16, 2018
You can see an ancient kauri tree unearthed from a peat bog in the video from Ancient Kauri below. The size of some of these trees is incredible.
Featured image: Fractal tree by socialtrendspr0 via Pixabay