Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

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

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move
Cary Marshall | 06 February, 2019, 00:41

For years, the magnetic pole's location was determined to lie not too far off from the Geographic North Pole.

All of these differences can cause problems for people and devices that attempt to navigate using the magnetic field. Currently, the northern magnetic pole is moving from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia.

A more serious possible effect of the "tug of war" between magnetic field patches in northern Canada and Siberia, which some scientists say is causing the accelerated movement of the magnetic north pole, is its potential to weaken the magnetic shield sparing earth from deadly solar and cosmic radiation. "If one 'plays the tape backwards, ' the record shows Earth's magnetic field strengthening, weakening, and often changing polarity".

The US and United Kingdom tend to update the location of the North Magnetic Pole every five years in December, but this update came early because of the pole's faster movement.

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.

The magnetic shift might not be an issue for satellite-based Global Positioning System but U.S. military ships in the region rely on the pole for navigation. Global Positioning System isn't affected because it's satellite-based.

"Airport runways are perhaps the most visible example of a navigation aid updated to match shifts in Earth's magnetic field". Its speed has jumped from about 9mph to 34mph since 2000.

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

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

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"The declination has changed just over 2.5 degrees over the past 22 years since Denver opened", Heath Montgomery, former Denver International Airport spokesperson, said in a statement after the last update.

Since the model is created and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. government shutdown delayed the release of the latest data set. The rate of the North Pole's motion, however, has been fast enough that the agencies who produce the model aren't comfortable with waiting for the current model expiration at the end of 2019.

Earth's north magnetic pole is on the move, and it's moving so quickly scientists are struggling to keep up as it moves towards Siberia. Since it's always on the move, scientists update their model every five years, the last update being in 2015.

"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 does, it will not be like a coin flip, but will take 1,000 or more years, experts said.

Why is the magnetic pole moving?

The model is accompanied by software that helps navigation services adjust to the magnetic field's quirks.

Also, migratory animals such as birds, butterflies, and whales use the magnetic field for directions.

The magnetic field shields Earth from some risky radiation, Dr Lathrop said. Everyday users of maps applications will never notice the subtleties caused by a misplaced magnetic pole, but submarines and aircraft do still rely on compasses in addition to newer technologies.

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