Magnetic north is moving quickly causing compasses to show misleading directions

Mindy Sparks
February 5, 2019

"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. It is used extensively in navigation by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.K. Ministry of Defense and many civilian systems-so knowing exactly where the northern and southern magnetic poles are is of paramount importance.

According to National Geographic, there appears to be a "tug-of-war" between two patches of magnetic field under northern Canada and Siberia thousands of kilometers below Earth.

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

Despite the north pole being a fixed location in the Arctic circle, the Magnetic North Pole is a wandering location which changes year on year. However, a year ago users said the model had "become inaccurate in the Arctic region", a statement from the British Geological Survey said.

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

Airport runway names are based on their direction towards magnetic north and their names change when the poles move.

For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.


Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1,400 miles towards Siberia. Its speed has jumped from about 9mph to 34mph since 2000.

Location of the north magnetic pole (white point) and the magnetic declination (contour interval 2 degrees) at the beginning of 2019.

The reason is turbulence in Earth's liquid 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.

"Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field", a statement from the NOAA said.

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.

Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado, has now warned the movement is occurring "pretty fast". In fact, recent geological records even indicate that our magnetic field is weakening, a phenomenon that may or may not lead to geomagnetic pole reversal: the north and south poles could flip.

It has happened numerous times in Earth's past, but not in the last 780,000 years.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER