Earth’s magnetic north pole is shifting toward Russian Federation, scientists say

07 February, 2019, 12:39 | Author: Emilio Conner
  • Earth's Magnetic North Pole Was Moving So Fast Geophysicists Had to Update the Map

The magnetic North Pole's unprecedented movement began in the mid-1990s and it is now headed from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia at roughly 55 kilometers per year, the journal Nature reported last month. Navigation systems in cars or phones rely on radio waves from satellites high above the Earth to pinpoint their position on the ground. Smartphone users also rely on WMM data for accurate compass apps, maps, and Global Positioning System. That was moved up because the northern magnetic pole has shifted so much, the U.S.

It had been hoped that the updated model could be released even earlier, last month, but it was held up by the recent shutdown in the USA government, which oversees the project along with the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, Scotland. Currently, the northern magnetic pole is moving from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia.

The magnetic north pole has been moving so fast that scientists on Monday released an update of where it really was, almost a year ahead of schedule. Scientists have, however, noticed in recent years an increased rate at which the pole appears to shift from location to location.

Airport runways are named with numeric identifiers based on where magnetic north is. The update doesn't have much effect for civilian users of magnetic navigation but is critical to military users. The model uses the latest data to predict how the magnetic field and two magnetic poles will move in the years in-between updates. The one thing scientists can all agree upon is that the movement of magnetic poles is impossible to accurately forecast for the future.

So scientists from the National Centers for Environmental Information have rolled out an update to the World Magnetic Model, a year earlier than planned, to adjust the "unplanned variations in the Arctic region" which makes the existing magnetic north inaccurate. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.

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It has happened numerous times in Earth's past, but not in the last 780,000 years.

That's because the planet's magnetic field won't stay put.

For most civilian purposes in Western Europe and North America, British Geological Survey geophysicist Ciaran Beggan says the changes would be relatively minor.

The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth. The World Magnetic Model helps us anticipate changes or shifts in the pole, so that operations dependent on direction can go on as needed. Only by tracking it, said University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore, can scientists hope to understand what's going on. And an overall weakening of the magnetic field isn't good for people and especially satellites and astronauts.

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



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