Earth's Magnetic North Pole Is Moving Faster Than Ever

Christopher Davidson
February 6, 2019

However, the magnetic north pole is moving faster than normal resulting in a new out of cycle release for the WMM.

Livermore was skeptical. "There's no evidence" that the localized changes in the Arctic are a sign of something bigger, he said.

What is the Magnetic North Pole? North and south magnetic poles have traded places multiple times throughout history as shown from geologic observations, each change happening between 200,000 and 300,000 years apart.

Magnetic North has, over the centuries, moved more or less unpredictably into the archipelagos of northern Canada.

At the moment, the northern magnetic pole is moving away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia. Every five years, a new and updated version of the WMM is released.

Though scientists only update the model every five years, they regularly check its accuracy. It also ensures the safe navigation of ships, military and civilian aircraft, as well as search & rescue operations.

Magnetic field variation is normal, if not easily predicted, but changes typically don't throw off navigation systems enough to warrant more frequent updates to the model.

Smartphones and other electronic devices rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate maps, compasses, and Global Positioning System services.

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However, your favorite mapping app can not be trusted as the World Magnetic Model plays a role in Global Positioning System service. If the mathematically expected location of the Magnetic North Pole is wrong, navigation equipment will be off kilter. "Airports around the country use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground", said the agency.

That could bother some birds that use magnetic fields to navigate, and an overall weakening of the magnetic field is not good for people and especially satellites and astronauts.

Some scientists think a jet stream of molten liquid is pushing the north pole, while others have suggested that the south and north magnetic poles are reversing positions. The model is accompanied by software that helps navigation services adjust to the magnetic field's quirks.

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.

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

The pole's movement towards Russian Federation can be attributed to the Earth's molten outer core.

Earlier, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey updated the coordinates of the magnetic north pole, saying it was gradually leaving the Canadian Arctic behind and moving toward Russia's Siberia at a rate of over 55 km per year, up from less than 15 km in the year 2000.

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