Knowing the precise location of the Earth’s magnetic north pole is something which is absolutely necessary for those who rely on compasses — or who operate airplanes and boats — and with its excessively fast shift, scientists have just updated the location of the magnetic north pole well ahead of schedule.
According to Phys.org, because the super fast drift of the magnetic north pole is something which has been occurring for decades now, absolutely precise navigation today is an impossibility. With this in mind, on Monday scientists decided to give an updated location for the magnetic north pole — one whole year ahead of when they had originally planned to.
If you’re wondering just how far the magnetic north pole is currently drifting, the answer is a lot. With each passing year, this pole has been found to shift around 34 miles. In fact, in 2017, it even managed to cross the international date line. The north pole is migrating, well on its way to Siberia right now.
While the swift shift of the Earth’s magnetic north pole isn’t interfering with GPS in any way — as this system is based upon satellites — it is a super big deal for the military, who need to nail the position down for navigational purposes — and also to plan reliable parachute drops.
NASA, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Federal Aviation Administration also rely on it too — so knowing its precise location is a pretty big deal for many people.
Earth's magnetic north pole — the north that your compass points toward — wanders in the direction of Siberia at a rate of more than 34 miles per year. https://t.co/TEINR3DH1C— NPR (@NPR) February 5, 2019
When the magnetic north pole was first officially measured back in 1831, it was located in the Canadian Arctic. However, it has drifted substantially over the past year, inching over a total of 1,400 miles towards Siberia.
Perhaps alarmingly, this speed has increased dramatically over recent years. For instance, with the pole moving at a rate of around nine miles per year from 1831 up until the year 2000, after 2000 the magnetic north pole was discovered to be drifting at a rate of 34 miles per year.
The reason for this sudden shift is due to turbulence which is currently taking place deep within the liquid outer core of the Earth. As University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop explained, “It has changes akin to weather. We might just call it magnetic weather.”
Because our planet’s magnetic field is also growing steadily weaker, at some point the poles will flip. While this hasn’t occurred in at least 780,000 years, scientists like Lathrop have noted that this event will be occurring on Earth again — although there is no way of knowing precisely when it will happen.
“It’s not a question of if it’s going to reverse, the question is when it’s going to reverse.”
Now that scientists have gifted us with the precise and updated location for the Earth’s magnetic north pole, things should be relatively stable — unless it hurtles towards Siberia even faster.