April 20, 2019

Check Your Compass: The Magnetic North Pole Is on the Move

06 February 2019, 12:41 | Edward Lowe

Check Your Compass: The Magnetic North Pole Is on the Move

The magnetic north pole is wandering about 34 miles a year. At the end of 2017 it crossed the international date lin

There have been a few theories about why the pole's movement has increased in recent years - from around 6 miles a year between 1900 and 1980 before accelerating to around 24 to 31 miles a year in the past two decades.

WASHINGTON (AP) - North isn't quite where it used to be.

The north magnetic pole has been drifting so fast that it could be a problem for smartphone maps and navigation systems. Scientists this week have updated the location of magnetic north a year ahead of schedule.

On Monday, February 4, the World Magnetic Model has found the pole is moving by an approximate 34 miles (55km) a year.

At the moment, the northern magnetic pole is moving away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia.

Maintaining an accurate measurement of the north magnetic is especially crucial since the WMM is used by U.S. 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.

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According to National Georgraphic, the system is vital for navigation, affecting everything from phones to commercial airlines and, if not adjusted based on the changes, could have major effects.

Magnetic North is on the move, and it has implications for everything from navigation to consumer products. The Fairbanks airport renamed runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009. In the five years between public updates, magnetic observations from the European Space Agency's Swarm mission are studied to track the movement of the poles.

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

Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1,400 miles towards Siberia.

The NOAA said Earth's magnetic field changes because of "unpredictable flows in Earth's core".

The reason is turbulence in Earth's liquid outer core of iron and nickel, says University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop.

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Dr Lathrop, who who wasn't part of the team monitoring the magnetic north pole said: 'It has changes akin to weather.

Today, however, reports suggest that these changes are occurring at a speed which was not anticipated and scientists were forced to release an emergency update for the World Magnetic Model.

However, the magnetic north pole is moving faster than normal resulting in a new out of cycle release for the WMM. Scientists discovered the pole was not where it should be in September past year, and, as a result, had to update the model that tracks its movements.

"It's not a question of if it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse", Lathrop said. "It didn't move much between 1900 and 1980 but it's really accelerated in the past 40 years", said Ciaran Beggan, of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh.

There's an epic "tug-of-war" between magnetic field patches and apparently the one beneath Siberia is winning.

That could bother some birds that use magnetic fields to navigate.

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