Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move

James Marshall
February 5, 2019

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tends to update the location of the magnetic north pole every five years, but the latest update came almost a year ahead of schedule because the pole is moving so quickly. Over the last 780,000 years, fossil records indicate that the poles have moved and switched a number of times, with no recognizable harm to living organisms.

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

The magnetic south pole is moving far slower than the north. At the end of 2017, it crossed the global date line. The magnetic field changes due to unpredictable flows of the Earth's molten core. It's leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia.

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).

Nature recently reported: "The fast motion of the north magnetic pole could be linked to a high-speed jet of liquid iron beneath Canada". Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north usually as backup navigation.

Daniel Lathrop of the University of Maryland said, '"It has changes akin to weather".

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.

It could be thousands of years before the magnetic field reverses again, the researchers believe. "By sampling these rocks and using radiometric dating techniques, it has been possible to reconstruct the history of the Earth's magnetic field for roughly the last 160 million years", wrote the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a blog post.

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

Some scientists are even wondering if the Earth is in for bigger changes: combined with a weakening magnetic field, it might spell an eventual magnetic reversal.

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

The magnetic field shields Earth from some risky radiation, Mr Lathrop said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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