Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move (Update)

February 4, 2019 by Seth Borenstein
Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move
In this July 23, 2017, file photo the midnight sun shines across sea ice along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The magnetic north pole is wandering about 34 miles (55 kilometers) a year. At the end of 2017 it crossed the international date line. That means it's not even the same day at the new magnetic north pole as it is at the spot of 2010's magnetic north pole. It's leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

North isn't quite where it used to be.

Earth's north magnetic pole has been drifting so fast in the last few decades that scientists say that past estimates are no longer accurate enough for precise navigation. On Monday, they released an update of where magnetic north really was, nearly a year ahead of schedule.

The magnetic north pole is wandering about 34 miles (55 kilometers) a year. It crossed the international date line in 2017, and is leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia.

The constant shift is a problem for compasses in smartphones and some consumer electronics. Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the newly issued World Magnetic Model. GPS isn't affected because it's satellite-based.

The military depends on where magnetic north is for navigation and parachute drops, while NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Forest Service also use it. Airport runway names are based on their direction toward magnetic north and their names change when the poles moved. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and United Kingdom tend to update the location of the magnetic north pole every five years in December, but this update came early because of the pole's faster movement.

The movement of the magnetic north pole "is pretty fast," Chulliat said.

Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1,400 miles (2300 kilometers) toward Siberia. Its speed jumped from about 9 miles per year (15 km per year) to 34 miles per year (55 km per year) since 2000.

Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move
In this July 16, 2017, file photo a radar shows sea ice ahead of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as chief officer Harri Venalainen navigates the ship through the Beaufort Sea while traversing the Arctic's Northwest Passage. The magnetic north pole is wandering about 34 miles (55 kilometers) a year. At the end of 2017 it crossed the international date line. That means it's not even the same day at the new magnetic north pole as it is at the spot of 2010's magnetic north pole. It's leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The reason is turbulence in Earth's liquid outer core. There is a hot liquid ocean of iron and nickel in the planet's core where the motion generates a magnetic field, said University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop, who wasn't part of the team monitoring the magnetic north pole.

"It has changes akin to weather," Lathrop said. "We might just call it magnetic weather."

The magnetic south pole is moving far slower than the north.

In general Earth's magnetic field is getting weaker, leading scientists to say that it will eventually flip, where north and south pole changes polarity, like a bar magnet flipping over. It has happened numerous times in Earth's past, but not in the last 780,000 years.

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

When it reverses, it won't be like a coin flip, but take 1,000 or more years, experts said.

Lathrop sees a flip coming sooner rather than later because of the weakened magnetic field and an area over the South Atlantic has already reversed beneath Earth's surface.

That could bother some birds that use magnetic fields to navigate. 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 dangerous radiation, Lathrop said.

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8 comments

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petersonwalter
5 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2019
It is interesting to note that the magnetic north is now closer to the geographic north than it had been.
Bart_A
5 / 5 (10) Feb 04, 2019
Correction: the article states: "Its speed jumped from about 9 mph (15 kph) to 34 mph (55 kph) since 2000." I think this is supposed to per year, rather than per hour. :)
cantdrive85
3.6 / 5 (8) Feb 04, 2019
Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move

And the magnetic south pole is also on the move, Antarctica is no longer the home of said pole. It is racing toward the Indian Ocean. In addition to the wandering poles the Earth's magnetic field is also weakening at an accelerating pace. These phenomena could have profound implications on many aspects of the Earth's systems, including weather and climate to the chagrin of the AGWite soothsayers and their faulty models which don't consider these aspects in their useless climate models.
baudrunner
not rated yet Feb 04, 2019
On Monday, they released an update of where true north really was, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
So, time travel is possible..
Its speed jumped from about 9 mph (15 kph) to 34 mph (55 kph) since 2000.
I can get to the equator in a car from there if that were doable and live to write about it on my sabbatical.
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2019
I actually had to change the magnetic declination on my field compass for it in order to adjust my telescope mount properly.
yaridanjo
1 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2019
There is evidence that major changes in the Earth's magnetic field are sometimes associated with cosmic impacts:
https://www.scien...9p18.htm
Geomagnetic Reversals From Impacts On The Earth
When these occur, the Earth's magnetic field at the mid latitudes often weaken, causing mutations in bacteria and virus thereby causing new diseases to rapidly appear. Thus, a more robust cure technique is required:
http://barry.warm...ill.html
IMPACTS, MAGNETIC FIELDS AND DISEASES
(CURING DISEASE BY SIMPLE HUMAN INTERACTIONS)

rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2019
Most people who see the headline or actually read this article or other pop-science publicity about the magnetic poles wandering?

Is that they are visualizing a flat map when they think about it.
& that they believe these are one-time, unchanging events.

Get a World globe or a computer sim of the Earth.
Draw a grease-pencil track of the movements across the Polar Regions.
What the heck!? An epicycle? That wobbles around like a (ahem) drunk?

As with the recent article ob Africa. It was not the South Pole that moved bit rather, the super-continent of Africa-South America was located draped over the South Pole. Hundreds of millions of years ago. Before continental drift carried them North while ripping the super-continent in half, Creating the Atlantic Ocean as Africa & South America have been shifting apart.

So, what is the meaning of all of this? Not much, just normal fluctuations in the Earth's Magnetosphere. A minor inconvenience as Da Schneib described.
johnhew
not rated yet Feb 06, 2019
cryptochrome flavins gonna flav

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