A Moment of Science

Motional Induction 2

Ever heard of motional induction? Learn about it on this Moment of Science.

We’ve been talking about “motional induction,” a phenomenon by which the ocean generates a magnetic field.

It works like this: earth has its own magnetic field. The ocean has plenty of charged atoms in it, in the form of dissolved salt. These atoms are in motion because the ocean flows.

Charged atoms moving through a magnetic field will induce an electric current. And an electric current will, in turn, create another magnetic field. The ocean should generate its own magnetic field.

Direct evidence came in 2003 from scientists working at the University of Washington and a research institute in Potsdam, Germany. These researchers used a magnetometer on board an orbiting satellite.

First, they figured out what the magnetic field of the planet should be. After subtracting this figure, they found there was still some leftover magnetic field.

Next, the team made a computer model of what kind of magnetic field the ocean should generate through motional induction. Sure enough, their prediction matched the excess magnetic field measured by the satellite.

The satellite also found that magnetic intensity over the oceans peaked every twelve and a half hours, but not over the land. Can you guess why?

The tides rise and fall every twelve and half hours, just as that extra magnetic energy swells and diminishes. This is very strong evidence that motional induction is real… and the ocean has it own magnetism.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science