FEB 22, 2019 4:55 PM PST

The Wandering Pole: Where's Earth's Magnetic North Pole Now?

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan


Although the geographic poles of the Earth (the two ends of Earth's rotation axis) remain by-and-large at the same location over a long period of time, Earth's magnetic poles are known to migrate, even flipping to the opposite directions every a few hundred of thousands of years.

But what's puzzling geologists for the last couple of decades is that our northern magnetic pole has been a hastened trip, moving from the Canadian Arctic toward Russia's Siberia area.

According to the British Geological Survey,  with almost no movement between 1900 and 1980, Earth's magnetic north pole has been moving at over 50 kilometers (31 miles) per year since the 1990s, as compared to  11 km (7 miles) per year before 1950s.

The locations of magnetic north pole since 1900 (WDCG/Kyoto University)

The magnetic field of Earth is a product of convention currents generated at Earth's core. The flow of super-hot, molten iron at the outer core triggers electric currents, which in turn produce magnetic fields. As metal ions pass through these fields, they go on to create electric currents and magnetic fields of their own, generating a self-sustaining loop known as the geodynamo.

Although scientists are certain that the sped-up movement of the magnetic north pole has to do with changes in the geodynamo, no one has come close to solve the mystery.

No major concerns were raised for the world outside of the Arctic area yet, largely due to alternative positioning mechanisms that are not affected by Earth's magnetic field. However, for people who live and travel in the Arctic area, this spells much bigger trouble.

The World Magnetic Model (WMM), a standard geomagnetic model that provides information to the telecom industry and military alike, is constructed and released on a five-year basis to ensure accurate navigation and positioning.

Because of the rapid shifts in the Earth's north magnetic, scientists had to update their model a year early in order to avoid significant inaccuracies and subsequent navigation-related problems.

Earth's Magnetic North Pole Has Begun Shifting 'Erratically' Towards Siberia (Skywatch News Media)

Source: ZME Science/CBC

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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