Earth’s magnetic field helps generate the aurora borealis. In recent years, a magnetic tug-o-war has … [+] pulled the magnetic north pole towards Russia.
It’s become increasingly clear in recent years that Earth’s magnetic north pole has been moving towards Russia at rather fast clip.
Now a team of researchers believe they’ve identified the forces that are causing the shift, which has implications for everyday navigation and mapping systems, among other things.
Earth’s magnetic field is governed by the flow of materials in our planet’s core, and it seems that two competing magnetic “blobs” along the outer core are pulling at the magnetic north pole.
One magnetized patch is beneath Canada while the other is under Siberia. In the past few decades, the Siberian patch has begun to overpower its opponent in dramatic fashion. The planet-scale battle has resulted in the magnetic north pole migrating towards Russia with a quickness.
“This change in the pattern of flow has weakened the patch under Canada and ever so slightly increased the strength of the patch under Siberia,” explained Dr Phil Livermore.
“This is why the North Pole has left its historic position over the Canadian Arctic and crossed over the International Date Line. Northern Russia is winning the ‘tug of war’, if you like,” Dr. Philip Livermore of the University of Leeds in the UK told BBC News.
Livermore is lead author of a paper out this week in Nature Geoscience.
Shifting of the magnetic North Pole, The shifting of the magnetic North Pole throughout the years, … [+] between 1831 and 2000. (Photo by: QAI Publishing/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
At the turn of the 20th century, the magnetic north pole was firmly in the Canadian Arctic. It spent the next century meandering about ten degrees to the north, moving ever closer to the true North Pole.
Around 2001 its movement began to accelerate, and by 2019 magnetic north had actually moved all the way north, crossed the International Date Line and began traveling south on the other side of the globe toward Siberia.
The team came to their conclusions by modeling the movement of molten material inside our planet using data from European satellites that measure Earth’s magnetic field.
The magnetic pole’s radical movement has forced updates to the world magnetic models used by scientists. But Livermore’s team reports that it’s still on the move.
“A range of simple models that capture this process indicate that over the next decade the north magnetic pole will continue on its current trajectory, travelling a further 390–660 km towards Siberia,” they write.