Earth’s Magnetic North Pole On the Move

A map of the magnetic North Pole and its movement.
A map of the magnetic North Pole and its movement.

The magnetic north pole is moving toward Russia “at almost 40 miles (64 kilometers) a year due to magnetic changes in the planet’s core.” Its long-time location is in northern Canada, close to Ellesmere Island.

The core is too deep for scientists to directly detect its magnetic field. But researchers can infer the field’s movements by tracking how Earth’s magnetic field has been changing at the surface and in space.

Now, newly analyzed data suggest that there’s a region of rapidly changing magnetism on the core’s surface, possibly being created by a mysterious “plume” of magnetism arising from deeper in the core.

After its discovery in 1831, the magnetic north pole had moved little until 1904, when “the pole began shifting northeastward at a steady pace of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year.”

In 1989 it sped up again, and in 2007 scientists confirmed that the pole is now galloping toward Siberia at 34 to 37 miles (55 to 60 kilometers) a year.

A rapidly shifting magnetic pole means that magnetic-field maps need to be updated more often to allow compass users to make the crucial adjustment from magnetic north to true North.

One researcher “is not ready to say whether magnetic north will eventually cross into Russia.”

“It’s too difficult to forecast,” he said.

The Tampa airport has had to realign some of the runways.

The Federal Aviation Administration required the runway designation change to account for what a National Geographic News report described as a gradual shift of the Earth’s magnetic pole at nearly 40 miles a year toward Russia because of magnetic changes in the core of the planet.



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