Magnetic field moves towards Russia
Earth’s northern magnetic pole is moving away from the Canadian Arctic and migrating more towards Siberia, according to recent scientific research.
This migration was so large it sparked a branch of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to change a model that locates the magnetic north pole during mid-cycle, and long before a regularly scheduled update.
Scientists with the NOAA branch, called the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), a North Carolina-based group with the world’s largest archive of environmental data, have released a new World Magnetic Model (WMM).
Typically, a new and updated version of the WMM is released every five years. With the last release in 2015, the next version was scheduled for release at the end of 2019.
This out-of-cycle update in the location of the magnetic north pole before next year’s official new model release will ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search-and-rescue planes and ships, and others.
Organizations such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Forest Service, use this technology for surveying and mapping, satellite and antenna tracking, along with air-traffic management.
The U.S. military uses the magnetic model for undersea and aircraft navigation and parachute deployment, along with other uses.
Smartphone and consumer electronics companies also rely on the magnet model to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services.
Airport runways are perhaps the most visible example of a navigation aid updated to match shifts in Earth’s magnetic field. Airports use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground.
“The declination has changed just over 2.5 degrees over the past 22 years” since a Denver opened up, says the airport’s former spokesman, Heath Montgomery.
Compasses use declination (the difference between true and magnetic north) to help correct navigation systems for a wide variety of uses.
As Earth’s magnetic field evolves between the five-year release schedule of the WMM, these predicted values can become off as the rate of change in Earth’s magnetic field evolves due to unpredictable flows in the Earth’s core.
The north polar region is experiencing one of these erratic changes. Although Earth’s geographic north pole is found at a fixed position, the planet’s magnetic north pole — the north that a compass points to — has now been found to wander in the direction of Siberia at a rate of more than 34 miles per year.
Scientists believe the drift in the magnetic north pole has to do molten iron and nickel that are moving around deep inside the Earth’s core, near the center of the planet. These metals serve as a conductor for Earth’s magnetic field.
It is changes in that fluid flow that has lead to changes in the magnetic field. The position of magnet north is important for migratory birds, butterflies and whales that use the magnetic field to find direction.
Other animals sense the field, including cows, which usually stand facing toward the magnetic pole when eating.