Cruising in Siberia's Lake Baikal. (Image via pixabay)
The magnetic north pole is rapidly moving away, and scientists can't explain why. It's been occurring in the past few decades, and the effect makes estimates for navigation a bit less accurate. Scientists released an update on Monday, indicating where the magnetic pole is now. The pole is drifting 34 miles a year and crossed the international date line in 2017. However, it is now leaving the Canadian Arctic and is heading towards Siberia. The change creates a problem for electronics - including compasses in smartphones. Airplanes and boats rely on the magnetic north pole for backup navigation. GPS isn't affected by the shift because it relies on satellites. Military uses the location of magnetic north for navigation and parachute drops. Meanwhile, NASA, FAA and the U.S. Forest Service depend on it. This also has an effect on airports because runway names are based on where they are stationed towards the magnetic north - their names change when the poles move.
The location of the magnetic pole is updated once every five years in December by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Kingdom. Between updates, scientists check the model's accuracy against data from ground magnetic observations and the Swam mission - a group of magnetic field-mapping satellites that move around the earth 15-16 times/day. This update came early (last updated in 2015) because of the rapid movement. It has moved about 1,400 miles towards Siberia since 1831 when measurements first began in the Canadian Arctic. Since 2000, the speed of its movement has jumped up from 9mph to 34mph. Turbulence in the Earth's outer core is to blame for this. A hot liquid ocean made of iron and nickel found in the planet's core where the electric field is created. The field is controlled by patches of magnetic field - one under Siberia and the other under northern Canada. The patch under Canada seems to have been stronger, but that's changed recently - Siberia's patch has been pulling the magnetic field all the way to where the geographic pole is.
More Siberia. (Image via pixabay)
It appears the south pole is moving much slower than the north. The Earth's magnetic field is weakening which leads scientists to believe that it will flip sides as the north and south pole changes polarity. This event has taken place several times in the past 20 million years, but the last time it happened was 780,000 years ago. When this happens, it won't be immediate. It will take 1,000 years or more to complete. However, the flip could happen sooner because of the magnetic field's weakness and an area over the South Atlantic has already reversed. This could also have an impact on birds that use magnetic fields to navigate. The weakening of the magnetic field will also have an impact on satellites, astronauts and the rest of us as the shieldiong of radiation diminishes.
It will be tough to determine what will happen to the magnetic north pole or if it continues moving at this speed towards Siberia. The only thing being certain of is the unpredictability of the magnetic north.
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