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Earth's Magnetic North Pole Continues Drifting, Crosses Prime Meridian

Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the solar wind by deflecting the charged particles.
Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the solar wind by deflecting the charged particles.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Earth's magnetic north pole, which has been wandering faster than expected in recent years, has now crossed the prime meridian

Magnetic north has been lurching away from its previous home in the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia at a rate of about 34 miles (55 kilometers) a year over the past two decades. The latest model of the Earth's magnetic field, released Dec. 10 by the National Centers for Environmental Information and the British Geological Survey, predicts that this movement will continue, though likely at a slower rate of 25 miles (40 km) each year. 

This model is used to calibrate GPS and other navigation measurements. 

Earth's magnetic field is produced by the churning of the planet's iron outer core, which produces a complex, but largely north-south magnetic field. For reasons not entirely understood but related to the planet's interior dynamics, the magnetic field is currently undergoing a period of weakening. That's why magnetic north is drifting

As of February 2019, magnetic north was located at 86.54 N 170.88 E, within the Arctic Ocean, according to the NCEI. (Magnetic south similarly does not line up with geographic south; it was at at 64.13 S 136.02 E off the coast of Antarctica as of February 2019.) 

Scientists release a new version of the World Magnetic Model every five years, so this 2020 update was expected. In February 2019, though, they had to release an update ahead of schedule due to the fast clip of magnetic north's movements. The 2020 model shows the "Blackout Zone" around magnetic north where compasses become unreliable and start to fail because of the proximity of true north. The new maps also show magnetic north east of the prime meridian, a boundary the pole crossed in September 2019, according to Newsweek. The prime, or Greenwich, meridian is the meridian that was set as the official marker of zero degrees, zero minutes and zero seconds in 1884;iIt runs through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England. 

Related: What If Earth's Magnetic Poles Flip?

It's currently unclear whether Earth's magnetic poles are headed for a flip-flop — switching north and south — or whether the magnetic field will soon strengthen again. Both events have happened in Earth's history without any notable effect on biology. However, modern navigation systems rely on magnetic north and will have to be recalibrated as the poles continue to wander. Already, for example, airports have had to rename some of their runways, which have names based on compass directions. 

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • tuffy777
    Do you know the difference between the Prime Meridian and the International Date line? I recommend that you look it up in any dictionary or encyclopedia, and then edit your article and the headline.
    Reply
  • winston1991
    tuffy777 said:
    Do you know the difference between the Prime Meridian and the International Date line? I recommend that you look it up in any dictionary or encyclopedia, and then edit your article and the headline.

    They weren’t talking about the international date line.

    Greenwhich Prime Meridian
    Reply
  • DD2011
    tuffy777,

    Perhaps you should do more research and correct your post.
    Reply
  • Themaninthemune
    Always thought that with the planet gridded to 360 degrees, and that the GMT, was always 180 degrees opposite from the IDL, as
    it is only the associated point of 0 degrees, & 180 degrees, or the 1/2 way point, around the planet, ... I could be wrong, however, but I learned how to make, & use a compass in Cub Scouts, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, ... now that I’m 66, it surprises me that there are a whole bunch of folks out here, ( like my lovely, wonderful wife), ... who have little, to no idea as to what, or why we even have to deal with things like knowing the 4 directions on a compass, ... I have won many beers, (over the years), in which people have no idea, or imagination, to where they are, or much less, why they are where they are, ...lmbo, ... with that said, I would tell them in which direction north is, and have them stand, pointed in that direction & ask them to point to the Southeast, and (only), ... & some of them had an idea of that direction, ... but when asked to imagine that they were standing on the North Pole, & to take 1step away from where they are at, & then (here is where the bet for a beer (lol), ... comes in), ... and lets say they step to the right, ... and they might say I just stepped to the East, & I tell them No, but let’s bet for another beer, double or nothing, ... sure, why not comes the reply, ... and they step to their front, ... & again they’ll guess they stepped to the East, & again I tell them, No, ... Sow they are thinking that I have lost the, ... but I show them, on a map, with an indication of north, & south poles are at, ... (to which my understanding is the axis upon which the planet is spinning, not the magnetic North/South), ... is that a single movement, in any direction from the North Pole, is a movement to the “SOUTH”, because the axis pole, is stationary, not subjected to any leanings of the magnetic anomaly, that seems to have a mind of its own, ...
    To which I will now make it clear as to how/why, it is in a pattern of moving, ...
    We all know that the Earth has a molten iron core, but how many scientists, or even regular folks understand that by being in a molten state of flux, that it is bouncing around inside of the planet, like a marble, inside a larger sphere, & that the amount of colder crust, is what retains it within the planet, ... our moon, & Sun, also being of iron are what keeps our gravity intact, ... & it is the rapport between the earth, our moon, & it’s relationship with the other planets gravities, that govern how that molten iron core stays inside of the planet, ... it has been locked inside the planet, bouncing around, ever since it had the collision with the earth, creating our moon, & the relationship our orbit around the sun, ... the bouncing around accomplishes many of the necessary things that life upon the planet depends upon, ... the magnetism, that protects the planet from the gamma radiation of the sun, the tides that wash, & sway our oceans, as it interacts on a constant motion with the moon attraction, and among other things, the regulation of our planets interior core temperature, of staying in motion as it bounces off of the crust of the Earths inner side of the outer crust, as the planet tops around on our daily trip past the sun, as we pass from the darkness of nighttime, into the refreshing of daily daylight, ... & the seasons, as we also follow the gravitational spin around the sun, which is ovaled, not a perfect circular orbit, in addition to the tilting of planet as we pass from season, ... to season, ... to season, ...

    What makes me wonder, (because I do not have the mathematical background of study), ... is what happens if the core, were to move nearer to the surface of the planet, as it spins within the planet, contained only by the planet’s crust, & start to pierce though the constantly changing movement of the shifting plate tectonics? Is there a study, or any indications, that this may occur someday? Or is it so far beneath crust that it remains trapped, & will bounce around inside the planet on a forever basis? I am of the thought, that perhaps the course the ever changing plates, ...is following a changing of the planets spin, but is taking a course change, because of manmade forces of destruction, such as the testing of nuclear warheads, & the earth’s reaction to those explosions of such forceful power, ... could we actually steer the planet, into a new course adjustment to our gravitational orbit, much akin to putting English, on a cue ball, ... by firing nuclear warheads on the outside of the planets surface???
    Reply
  • TIna
    winston1991 said:
    They weren’t talking about the international date line.

    Greenwhich Prime Meridian
    I think the point was they should have been talking about the international date line. The pole didn’t wander over the Prime Meridian as far as I understand.
    Reply
  • Longkeeler
    Admin said:
    Earth's magnetic north is wandering from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia, and it just crossed the Prime Meridian.

    Earth's Magnetic North Pole Continues Drifting, Crosses Prime Meridian : Read more
    Is there any research on the influence of the changes of materia flux and climate change?
    Reply
  • winston1991
    TIna said:
    I think the point was they should have been talking about the international date line. The pole didn’t wander over the Prime Meridian as far as I understand.

    Several articles mention it crossing the Prime Meridian. The international date line is on the other side of the world at 180° longitude. The Prime Meridian is at 0° longitude.
    Reply
  • winston1991
    Reply
  • Longkeeler
    Themaninthemune said:
    ...
    We all know that the Earth has a molten iron core, but how many scientists, or even regular folks understand that by being in a molten state of flux, that it is bouncing around inside of the planet, like a marble, inside a larger sphere, & that the amount of colder crust, is what retains it within the planet, ...

    Short reply, more an extention of your remarks: Just my thoughts and questions about the influence of that molten lump of iron bouncing around, probably all not equally tempered - how does this influence our climate? Are the temperatures on the oceans' floors measured, and that long enough, to tell us something about changes?
    Reply
  • LazyCdn
    winston1991 said:
    They weren’t talking about the international date line.

    Greenwhich Prime Meridian
    The following statement in the article is incorrect.

    "The prime, or Greenwich, meridian is the meridian that was set as the official marker of zero degrees, zero minutes and zero seconds in 1884;iIt runs through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England."

    The international date line runs through Greenwich in England.
    Reply