Magnetic north shifting towards Russia
Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:20:07 GMT
Surveys show the magnetic north pole is moving faster, threatening everything from the safety of modern transportation systems to the traditional navigation routes of migrating animals.
Scientists say that magnetic north, which for two centuries has been in the icy wilderness of Canada, is currently relocating towards Russia at a rate of about 40 miles a year, reported The Independent.
The speed of its movement has increased by one-third in the past decade, prompting speculation that the field could be about to "flip," causing compasses to invert and point south rather than north, something that happens between three and seven times every million years.
The phenomenon is already causing problems in the field of aviation, added the British daily.
The current rate of the magnetic north's movement away from Canada's Ellesmere Island is throwing out compasses by roughly one degree every five years.
Geologists believe that magnetic north pole (which is different from the true North Pole, the axis on which the Earth spins) moves around due to changes in the planet's molten core, which contains liquid iron. They first located it in 1831, and have been trying to follow its progress ever since.
Records indicate that the pole's location barely moved in the early decades, but in about 1904, it began tracking north-east at a rate of about nine miles a year.
That speed increased significantly from about 1989, possibly because of a "plume" of magnetism deep below ground.
The pole is now believed to be heading towards Siberia at about 37 miles each year.
“Earth's magnetic field is changing in time. And as far as we know, it has always been changing in time," geophysicist Jeffrey Love of the US Geological Survey in Colorado was quoted by the British daily as saying.