Earth's magnetic north pole is hurtling toward Russian Federation

Olive Hawkins
February 5, 2019

The U.S.' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement Monday that scientists had updated the World Magnetic Model, used by smartphone and consumer electronics for maps and Global Positioning System services, ahead of time to account for unplanned changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

But its swift pace toward Siberia in recent years at a rate of around 34 miles per year has forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model - used by civilian navigation systems, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and U.S. and British militaries - a year ahead of schedule.

However, the magnetic north pole is moving faster than normal resulting in a new out of cycle release for the WMM. At the end of 2017, it crossed the global date line.

The north magnetic pole has been drifting so fast that it could be a problem for smartphone maps and navigation systems.

The Earth last witnessed such a reversal about 780,000 years ago. It should then come as no surprise that the early review released this week was requested by the US Military.

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

The update will help navigation services that rely on the World Magnetic Model to calibrate users' geolocation data, the NOAA said. While modern smartphones, vehicles, ships, and airliners are connected to satellite-based navigation systems, like GPS and GLONASS, their receivers don't provide a sense of direction, rather, only a person or vehicle's fixed location.

Airport runway names are also based on their direction toward magnetic north and their names change when the poles moved. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.

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

Its speed jumped from about 9 miles per hour (15 kph) to 34 miles per hour (55 kph) since 2000.

North is not quite where it used to be.

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

The magnetic north pole's movement over the past five decades. 'We might just call it magnetic weather'.

Earth's magnetic field is now getting weaker, and scientists believe the poles could "flip" at some point in the future.

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.

If the poles flip, compasses will point south - and it could have significant effects on Earth's power grid (although it's not likely to happen immediately, despite doomsday-mongers' obsession with the idea).

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