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Magnetic north pole moving 55 kilometres a year, disrupting navigation

File photo of the North Pole. Photograph:( ANI )

WION Web Team Delhi, India Feb 05, 2019, 04.16 PM (IST)

Earth's magnetic north pole is drifting by about 55 kilometres a year. And the drift is picking up pace; in 2000, the magnetic north pole was moving at about 15 kilometres a year. 

The magnetic north pole was first measured in 1831 in the Canadian Arctic. It has since then moved some 2,300 kilometres. It crossed the International Date Line in 2017 and is now leaving the Canadian Arctic for Siberia.

The movement of course has begun to mess up navigation. 

NASA uses the magnetic north pole, as do airplanes and boats, usually as backup navigation. The drifting magnetic north is also messing up compasses in smartphones and some consumer electronics.

GPS, fortunately, is not affected since it is satellite-based. 

AP quoted University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop as saying the reason behind the shift is turbulence in the Earth's liquid outer core. There is a hot liquid ocean of iron and nickel in the planet's core and its motion generates an electric field.

For now, the magnetic south pole is moving far more slowly than the north. Finally, the two will flip places. 

Not to worry, it's happened before in the past — several times, just not in the last 780,000 years. 

Story highlights

Since the magnetic north pole was first measured in 1831 in the Canadian Arctic, it has moved some 2,300 kilometres. It crossed the International Date Line in 2017 and is now leaving the Canadian Arctic for Siberia.