Magnetic North Pole Moving Fast Toward Russia, Scientists Say

Katie Ramirez
February 6, 2019

If the mathematically expected location of the Magnetic North Pole is wrong, navigation equipment will be off kilter.

North is not quite where it used to be. It crossed the worldwide dateline in 2017 and is leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia.

The rapid movement forced scientists to release an update of the World Magnetic Model (WMM), or the actual position of the magnetic on February 4 - nearly a year earlier than expected - in order to allow navigational services, including map-based phone apps, to keep working accurately.

Over the last few decades, the largest change has been the motion of the magnetic North Pole, which has shifted from the Canadian side of the geographic North Pole to the Russian side. And while most scientists believe this shift will not lead to any catastrophic mass extinctions, the scenes may be frightening, looking something like the pictures of thousands of dead birds and fish in Arkansas in 2011, which some scientists thought may have been related to animals' sensitivity to changes in the Earth's magnetic field. 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.

Scientists were in the middle of arranging an emergency location update for its location when the U.S. government shutdown put the announcement on hold. Any navigational changes will mostly affect the Arctic regions or, specifically, latitudes above 55 degrees.

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

Its speed jumped from about 9 miles per hour (15 kph) to 34 miles per hour (55 kph) since 2000.

"It has changes akin to weather", Lathrop said. The northern magnetic pole always moves, resulting in a new map of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) every five years.

Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado, has now warned the movement is occurring "pretty fast".

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In general Earth's magnetic field is getting weaker, leading scientists to say that it will eventually flip, where north and south pole changes polarity, like a bar magnet flipping over. Scientists discovered the pole was not where it should be in September previous year, and, as a result, had to update the model that tracks its movements. Only by tracking it, said University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore, can scientists hope to understand what's going on.

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

Magnetic North is one of three 'north poles.' True north is probably the most well known and is the northern end of planet Earth axis.

Whales are also attuned to magnetic fields. "As it flows it creates an electronic current and that current makes a magnetic field - which drifts with the hot runny core", he said.

Since 2015, the place to which a compass points has been sprinting toward Siberia at a pace of more than 30 miles a year.

They can be found in the navigation systems of ships and airplanes as well as geological applications - such as drilling and mining.

Meanwhile, smartphones and other electronic devices rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate maps, compasses, and Global Positioning System services.

With the shutdown over, however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has now announced the availability of the new Model.

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

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