Earth’s magnetic pole is moving so fast scientists are struggling to keep up

Rob Waugh
Contributor
It’s on the move, and it’s going fast (Getty)

Earth’s north magnetic pole is on the move, and it’s moving so quickly scientists are struggling to keep up as it moves towards Siberia.

The pole is moving about 34 miles a year, scientists say, crossing the international date line in 2017 on a journey towards Russia.

It’s a problem for organisations (such as the US military) which use magnetic north for navigation, and it’s now moving so quickly scientists are having to update their estimates ahead of schedule.

It’s caused by turbulence in the liquid outer core of our planet, where a hot ocean of iron and nickel generates a magnetic field.

Earth’s North Magnetic Pole has been drifting so fast in the last few decades that scientists say past estimates are no longer accurate enough for precise navigation.

Daniel Lathrop of the University of Maryland said, ‘“It has changes akin to weather. We might just call it magnetic weather.’

Earth’s magnetic field is currently getting weaker, and scientists believe the poles could ‘flip’ at some point in the future.

Our planet’s magnetic field has weakened 15% in the past 200 years.

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If the poles flip, compasses will point south – and it could have significant effects on Earth’s power grid (although it’s not likely to happen immediately, despite doomsday-mongers’ obsession with the idea).

It could be thousands of years before the magnetic field reverses again, the researchers believe.

NASA has poured cold water on the idea that magnetic field reversals could lead to an apocalypse, saying in 2012 that, ‘The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is – in terms of geologic time scales – a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia.

‘While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable – the north pole’s movement could subtly change direction, for instance – there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously.’

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