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Earth Science

North Magnetic Pole Moving East Due To Core Flux 346

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the looking-forward-to-2012 dept.
National Geographic is reporting that the migration of Earth's magnetic pole has accelerated again and is now racing in Russia's direction at a blazing 40 miles per year. This movement began in earnest around 1904 at about 9 miles per year and has been accelerating since. "Geologists think Earth has a magnetic field because the core is made up of a solid iron center surrounded by rapidly spinning liquid rock. This creates a 'dynamo' that drives our magnetic field. Scientists had long suspected that, since the molten core is constantly moving, changes in its magnetism might be affecting the surface location of magnetic north. Although the new research seems to back up this idea, Chulliat is not ready to say whether magnetic north will eventually cross into Russia. 'It's too difficult to forecast,' Chulliat said. Also, nobody knows when another change in the core might pop up elsewhere, sending magnetic north wandering in a new direction."
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North Magnetic Pole Moving East Due To Core Flux

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  • North Pole (Score:5, Funny)

    by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:46PM (#30577638)

    In Soviet Russia North Pole comes to YOU!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:46PM (#30577640)

    Yet another impact of "global warming". Heating the globe is melting the no-longer-solid iron center. Yikes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I hope congress immediately passes a 3000 page bill to solve this issue now! Something must be done and there isn't time to read or think about it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oldhack (1037484)
      So, what you are saying is that the earth is reversing the polarity of its flux capacitor?
  • and the south? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LiquidMind (150126) on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:48PM (#30577658)

    I remember reading/hearing in geology (or astronomy? whatever) class that every so-many-thousands of years, the magnetic poles just switch.

    If i'm not just making that up, then this is the first articles of many we'll see...

    • by hitmark (640295)

      iirc, the switch seems to have been a fairly regular event, going by geological evidence, at least until recently.

      seems its over due, altho i am unsure about the exactly by how much...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      every so-many-thousands of years, the magnetic poles just switch.

      and traditional compasses are nearly useless during the transition period as the north/south polarity breaks up into mini-poles, which are regional and in constant flux.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572)

        Further to the interim multiple poles, other interesting things happen, the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy) [wikipedia.org] aurora will appear over those poles, making for interesting light shows, where ever the poles should momentarily settle. The larger problem with momentary pole shift, is solar flares and the ability of radiation from those events to reach to the earth's surface depending upon which temporary pole they align with. So some kind of warning system will be required to reduce human exposure

        • Re:and the south? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:30PM (#30578454)

          It will be interesting to see what impact it gas on migratory birds and what measure will need to be taken to alleviate that impact.

          You mean by the birds? Adaptation and evolution should nail it.

          If you mean by us, we could help by shooting birds that aren't traveling along the correct heading as they fly over Wasilla during the summer.

    • Very strong evidence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mister_playboy (1474163) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:01AM (#30579322)

      The largest body of evidence for this is found in the striping of the ocean's floor. In the areas where rock material moves up from the mantle and solidifies, the molten rock aligns with the current magnetic field before it cools, and this alignment cannot be changed once the rock becomes solid. The entire ocean floor is banded with a north/south/north/south alignment pattern, implying the reversal is very consistent from a cosmological timescale perspective.

      This reversal of the field occurs approximately every 800000 years, with a period of 1000-2000 years around the switch where the magnetic field is disorganized and significantly weaker than normal. This period has very big implications for lifeforms on Earth... obviously not enough to totally end life, but enough to kill lots of animals from various causes (extra solar radiation, messed up internal compass, disrupted migration patterns,etc.).

  • How convenient (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SlothDead (1251206) on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:49PM (#30577670)

    It is actually pretty cool that this happens at the time our technology is so advanced that we can have electronic compasses that simply use GPS to figure out where they are so they can point to the geographic north pole, instead of towards the magnetic one. Imagine how inconvenient it would have been for people if this had happened a view hundred years earlier; they would have to do some extra calculations to navigate their ships.

    Yay for technology!

    • might not have GPS (Score:5, Informative)

      by r00t (33219) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:53PM (#30578158) Journal

      Without a magnetic field to stop the solar wind, satellites tend to die.

      Granted, GPS is military and not LEO, so it might be built a bit better than most.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      while gps can tell you where you are, it cant tell where north is, unless i have misunderstood the system.

      at least not as long as your standing still. Tho if you move in some direction, it can tell you on what axis the change was, and calculate north based on that.

  • by MickDownUnder (627418) on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:54PM (#30577714)

    This article covers it...

    http://scienceblogs.com/highlyallochthonous/2009/02/is_the_earths_magnetic_field_a.php [scienceblogs.com]

    I've heard it from several sources though, they have geological proof that the earths magnetic field has been periodically flipping and reversing its polarity, and that it does this at periodic intervals, and that we are in fact due for a flip any millenia now.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Will make navigation sort of hard with a compass.. "North, well its sort of in that direction, kind of...."

      • by RobVB (1566105) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:42PM (#30578078)
        This is why the International Maritime Organisation [imo.org] has agreed on the following rules (taken from SOLAS chapter V [icomia.com] (Safety Of Life At Sea):

        2.5 All ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards shall, [...] have:
        .1 a gyro compass, or other means, to determine and display their heading by shipborne non-magnetic means [...]
        .2 a gyro compass heading repeater, or other means, to supply heading information visually at the emergency steering position if provided;
        .3 a gyro compass bearing repeater, or other means, to take bearings [...]

        Gyrocompasses [wikipedia.org] are useful for many other reasons: they point to true north instead of magnetic north, which means you don't have to correct for magnetic declination [wikipedia.org] (the difference between true north and magnetic north) and magnetic deviation [wikipedia.org] (the difference between compass north and magnetic north, an error caused by local magnetic influences such as the steel in a ship's construction). They can also give your heading digitally, which means you can connect repeaters to it, and autopilots etc. can use its output.

        From

        this page [navis.gr]:

        Almost every naval vessel and merchant ship today carries at least one master gyrocompass, installed in its own gyro room. A transmission system links the master gyrocompass to "repeaters." These are used on the ship for such purposes as steering, position finding, and course recording.

      • by QuoteMstr (55051)
        1. Nobody uses the earth's magnetic field for navigation [wikipedia.org] these days.
        2. The magnetic reversal, when it happens, will not be sudden. The dipole moment of Earth's magnetic field will gradually become less prominent, and quadropole (and higher-order) moments will strengthen. Gradually.
        3. Even without magnetism and modern technology, astronomical observations [wikipedia.org] can provide a heading.
        • by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:08PM (#30578254) Journal

          A lot of pilots use the earth's magnetic field for navigation. When flying around under visual flight rules in an analog cockpit (which make up the majority of general aviation aircraft), the magnetic compass backs up the gyro-based heading indicator. Every 15-20 minutes, the heading indicator is realigned with the compass heading when in straight and level, unaccelerated flight due to the effects of precession, making that magnetic field very important. Even in a glass cockpit, the FAA requires a backup magnetic compass in case of computer or electrical failure.

        • by RobVB (1566105)
          The problem with astronomical observations is that you need a precise time, though.
          • by QuoteMstr (55051)

            AIUI, precise timekeeping is only needed for longitude. Can't you find your latitude and heading by looking at the north star? (The elevation of the north star above the horizon is equal to your latitude.)

  • by failedlogic (627314) on Monday December 28, 2009 @08:55PM (#30577722)

    This explains why paper notes I've left on my fridge with magnets keep sliding down. So in this conspiracy, the magnetic reversal is the blame of either the Russians or the makers of sticky note paper.

  • by WoodenTable (1434059) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:07PM (#30577838)

    As a Canadian, I feel there's only one rational response to the Russians taking our magnetic north pole (which is sort of owned by the whole of humanity and indeed the planet itself, but has been held in our trust for some time).

    All out nuclear war.

    And the only downside is nuclear winter! Winter! We can handle a few more months of that each year, easy. It's win-win, really!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please help this simpleton to understand.

    North pole shifts towards Russia, how about the South pole?

    It takes two to tango, right?

    So, does the South pole shift as well? To where?

    A sincere thank from this simpleton for anyone who can help out !

    • by Farmer Tim (530755) <roundfile@mindle ... com minus author> on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:55PM (#30578622) Journal

      So, does the South pole shift as well?

      Yes [aad.gov.au].

      To where?

      Antarctica isn't divided up into countries, so it's moving from Antarctica to Antarctica*. That's like saying it's gone from the middle of nowhere (with penguins) to also the middle of nowhere (with penguins): there's just no way of making that an attention grabbing story, despite the penguins.

      *To be technical, magnetic South is near the edge of the sea ice rather than on the continent, which means it's moving from a really cold bit of ocean to another, slightly less cold bit of ocean. While that does entail more penguins, it's still not that interesting.

  • As a Canadian I hope we do not lose the national treasure of having the Pole anytime soon!
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:28PM (#30577984) Journal

    TFA is only about north. South is moving also, but not nearly as much. Two magnetic poles are not a rigid dipole. Maybe in the core, but at the surface they're fairly independent. Given this, it's quite possible that past geomagnetic events were not 'reversals' with north and south sliding past each other and popping out the other side. Rather north and south might wander far enough out of opposite that the Earth's external magnetic field is far off center, and/or very strong over some parts but weak over others. Conceivably they could 'collapse' by becoming too close. The magnetic field would appear to go away although the generator (and whatever drives it) is still operating. I think this makes more sense than the direct reversal in that it assumes the generator to stop operating, which I find unlikely, and start again of its own accord, which smacks of a planetary "and then a miracle occurs". The data does support this hypothesis as being at lest possible. In 2005 magnetic north of 500 miles from true north, while magnetic south was 1750 miles from true south. Either the dipole is off center, which contradicts the generator idea, or the dipole is bent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Current thinking is not that the generator stops and starts, nor that the poles cross over in the core or even wander along the surface until they flip. The idea is that the dipole field weakens while higher order fields intensify, so we end up with multiple poles all over. Eventually the dipole field strengthens again, with the opposite polarity.

  • 40 miles per year? That's a speed, not an acceleration.
  • First the Russians tried to claim most of the North Pole by saying it was in their territorial waters. Soon, they're gonna try claiming the magnetic North Pole too.
  • by MiddleHitter (473147) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:45PM (#30578106) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, Compass needle points to YOU!

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