Earth's magnetic north pole is hurtling toward Russia
Feb 06 2019
NOAA explained that the WMM is updated every five years, but due to the shift of the pole, scientists were forced to publish the WMM update a year earlier. A compass points towards magnetic north. It has already crossed the International Date Line in 2017 and now is on its way to cross the Canadian Arctic and then Siberia.
Even though the magnetic North Pole has never stayed idle, scientists have been left wondering as to why it has been moving so erratically. But then the USA government shut down, placing the model's official release on hold, as Nature News reported earlier. 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.
It had been hoped that the updated model could be released even earlier, last month, but it was held up by the recent shutdown in the USA government, which oversees the project along with the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth. Planes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as back-up navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the newly issued World Magnetic Model.
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. This is the reason why they need to be recalibrated to reflect the change in the magnetic north pole. The Fairbanks airport renamed runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.
Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1400 miles (2300 km) towards Siberia. Its speed has jumped from about 9mph to 34mph since 2000. On Monday, they released an update of where magnetic north really was, almost a year ahead of schedule.
For most civilian purposes in Western Europe and North America, British Geological Survey geophysicist Ciaran Beggan says the changes would be relatively minor.
Compasses are also impacted by the World Magnetic Model: These devices use declination (the difference between true north and where a compass points) to ensure navigation systems are correct. Geomagnetic north is the northernmost end of the earth's magnetic bubble or magnetosphere.
Unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed, the north magnetic pole changes based on the movement of Earth's liquid core.
Over the last few years, Earth's magnetic field has been shifting rapidly. It is not a question of if it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse.
When it does, it will not be like a coin flip, but will take 1,000 or more years, experts said.
The swarm mission involves the magnetic-field mapping satellites that zip around Earth 15 to 16 times each day.
The entire transportation sector, especially aviation and shipping, depends on correctly knowing the position of magnetic north to chart out their navigation paths.