Earthquake Glossary - magnetic polarity reversal
magnetic polarity reversal
A magnetic polarity reversal is a change of the earth's magnetic field to the opposite polarity. This has occurred at irregular intervals during geologic time. Polarity reversals can be preserved in sequences of magnetized rocks and compared with standard polarity-change time scales to estimate geologic ages of the rocks. Rocks created along the oceanic spreading ridges commonly preserve this pattern of polarity reversals as they cool, and this pattern can be used to determine the rate of ocean ridge spreading. The reversal patterns recorded in the rocks are termed sea-floor magnetic lineaments.