The North Magnetic Pole Has Changed And It Could Cause Major Issues

06 February, 2019, 05:35 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Earth's magnetic north pole is wandering about 55 kilometres a year

Location of the north magnetic pole (white point) and the magnetic declination (contour interval 2 degrees) at the beginning of 2019.

NOAA wasn't expecting changes to be needed until 2020, but the magnetic North Pole has apparently been heading further away from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia at an unprecedented rate of 55 kilometers per year. Since 1831, the magnetic north pole in northern Canada has been moving across the Arctic toward Russian Federation.

Usually released every five years, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday's early update of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) would "accurately represent the change of the magnetic field" since the last update in 2015. "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. The magnetic field shields Earth from some unsafe radiation, Lathrop said.

The magnetic shift might not be an issue for satellite-based Global Positioning System but USA military ships in the region rely on the pole for navigation.

Since 1831, the north magnetic has been moving across the Canadian Arctic towards Russian Federation, which is unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009. Its speed has jumped from about 9mph to 34mph since 2000.

"The difficulty is that we don't have a way to directly observe what is happening in the Earth's core so we have to make a lot of assumptions", Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOA, who works on the WMM, told Motherboard. There is a hot liquid ocean of iron and nickel in the planet's core where the motion generates an electric field, said University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop.

Federal organizations like NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration use something called the World Magnetic Model for navigational purposes as well as surveying and mapping, satellite tracking, and air traffic management.

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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. Research into rock signatures has shown that this can happen about every 250,000 years, except for the last one - that happened around 780,000 years ago.

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

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

This pole is defined as the point at which magnetic field lines point vertically down.

All of these differences can cause problems for people and devices that attempt to navigate using the magnetic field.

Earth's magnetic field has been slowly changing throughout its existence. The last time it so happened, with the magnetic north pole getting somewhere near where the magnetic south pole now is, was about 780,000 years ago.

They can be found in the navigation systems of ships and airplanes as well as geological applications - such as drilling and mining. It is also used by smartphone providers for Global Positioning System, maps and compass apps.



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