Earth's Magnetic Pole is Quickly Moving Toward Russia, Models Say

Earth's Magnetic Pole is Quickly Moving Toward Russia, Models Say

Earth's Magnetic Pole is Quickly Moving Toward Russia, Models Say

For example, airport runway names are based on their direction toward magnetic north and their names change when the poles move. Its speed jumped from about 9 miles per year (about 15 kilometers per year), not per hour.

The World Magnetic Model (WMM) enables compasses to point north and is used in navigation systems and was updated to keep it accurate.

But the north magnetic pole's inexorable drift suggests that something odd - and potentially powerful - is taking place deep within Earth. By the summer, the discrepancy between the World Magnetic Model and the real-time location of the north magnetic pole had almost exceeded the threshold needed for accurate navigation, said William Brown, a geomagnetic field modeler for the BGS. Just a half-century ago, the magnetic north pole was wandering about 7 miles each year.

Credit University of Kyoto
Credit University of Kyoto

At the end of 2017, the magnetic north pole crossed the worldwide date line.

Maintaining an accurate measurement of the north magnetic is especially crucial since the WMM is used by United States and British military agencies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and smartphone technology, like Apple or Google Maps.

Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Dr Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the WMM. While modern smartphones, vehicles, ships, and airliners are connected to satellite-based navigation systems, like GPS and GLONASS, their receivers don't provide a sense of direction, rather, only a person or vehicle's fixed location.

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The magnetic pole is what compasses recognize as north - that's different from the North Pole, where all the lines of longitude meet.

The reason is turbulence in Earth's liquid outer core.

"Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field between 2015 and now", the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information wrote in a press release Monday. And the magnetic poles frequently don't line up with the pole defined by the axis of the Earth's rotation. And unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed, the north magnetic pole has been slowly migrating over time - moving across the Canadian Arctic toward Russian Federation since 1831. Records of ancient magnetic fields from extremely old rocks show that the poles can even flip - an event that has occurred an average of three times every million years.

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'It's not a question of if it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse, ' Dr Lathrop said.

When it does, it will not be like a coin flip, but will take 1,000 or more years, experts said. Most recently, it appears that magnetic north is shifting more rapidly towards Siberia, but that could change without warning at any time. And an overall weakening of the magnetic field isn't good for people and especially satellites and astronauts.

The magnetic field shields Earth from some risky radiation, Mr Lathrop said.

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