Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Earth’s Magnetic North Pole Is Moving Towards Russia, NOAA Says in Update

Earth’s Magnetic North Pole Is Moving Towards Russia, NOAA Says in Update

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.

Defined as the point on the Northern Hemisphere where the world's magnetic field points vertically downwards, the North Magnetic Pole moves over time, due to moving currents in the earth's core.

Magnetic north is now moving more than 34 miles per year, up from just seven miles throughout the mid 1900s. Since 1831, the magnetic north pole in northern Canada has been moving across the Arctic toward Russian Federation.

Scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information have released an early update for the World Magnetic Model that powers a variety of global navigational systems. Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the newly issued World Magnetic Model.

Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1400 miles (2300 km) towards Siberia. Scientists this week have updated the location of magnetic north a year ahead of schedule.

It's caused by turbulence in the liquid outer core of our planet, where a hot ocean of iron and nickel generates a magnetic field.

Livermore was skeptical. "There's no evidence" that the localized changes in the Arctic are a sign of something bigger, he said. In the five years between public updates, magnetic observations from the European Space Agency's Swarm mission are studied to track the movement of the poles. The magnetic field changes due to unpredictable flows of the Earth's molten core.

Even though the magnetic North Pole has never stayed idle, scientists have been left wondering as to why it has been moving so erratically. 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", Lathrop said.

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With the magnetic field of the Earth changing more than predicted, the values can be off requiring an out-of-cycle update such as this.

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

Our planet's magnetic field has weakened 15% in the past 200 years.

The WMM is also part of map applications in smartphones, including the Google Maps App.

What is the Magnetic North Pole?

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.

Earth's magnetic field has been slowly changing throughout its existence. But this standalone school compass is no longer used for modern requirements of navigation in aviation, shipping or military, or even in our mobile phones.

Researchers from the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintain the WMM.

'Your orientation, the direction you are facing, comes from the magnetic field'.

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