Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Earth's Magnetic North Pole May Have Just Officially Shifted

Earth's Magnetic North Pole May Have Just Officially Shifted

Declination is the difference between true north and where the compass points to.

The magnetic pole is what compasses recognize as north - that's different from the North Pole, where all the lines of longitude meet.

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. But then the United States government shut down, placing the model's official release on hold, as Nature News reported earlier. Earth's north magnetic pole is wandering about 55 kilometres a year. It should then come as no surprise that the early review released this week was requested by the US Military.

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

Global Positioning System isn't affected because it's satellite-based, but 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 WMM.

The NOAA said the WMM is used by the military, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Forest Service for mapping, navigation, and air traffic management. This is the reason why they need to be recalibrated to reflect the change in the magnetic north pole. "Airports around the country use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground", said the agency.

Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1400 miles (2300 km) towards Siberia. Its speed jumped from about 9 miles per year (15 kilometers per year) to 34 miles per year (55 kilometers per year) since 2000.

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Today, however, reports suggest that these changes are occurring at a speed which was not anticipated and scientists were forced to release an emergency update for the World Magnetic Model. Earth's poles change due to unpredictable flows of molten liquid iron at the Earth's core caused by the planet's rotation, changing the Earth's magnetic field.

The magnetic north pole's movement over the past five decades.

Magnetic North is always moving, but recently the movement has significantly increased in pace, although scientists don't really know why.

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

"We've updated the model on a five-year cycle, because in the past, that's the average amount time it takes for the errors to become too large", Chulliat said.

Dr 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.

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

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