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North Magnetic Pole Racing Toward Siberia 187

Posted by kdawson
from the slowly-swinging-needles dept.
RogerRoast sends along a backgrounder from Scientific American on the best current theory as to why the north magnetic pole drifts. "The NMP, also known as the dip pole, is the point on Earth where the planet's magnetic field points straight down into the ground. Scottish explorer James Clark Ross first located the NMP in 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula in what is now northern Canada... [T]he NMP drifts from year to year as geophysical processes within Earth change. For more than 150 years after Ross's measurement its movement was gradual, generally less than 15 kilometers per year. But then, in the 1990s, it picked up speed, ... bolting north–northwest into the Arctic Ocean at more than 55 kilometers per year. If it keeps going it could pass the geographic north pole in a decade or so and carry on toward Siberia."
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North Magnetic Pole Racing Toward Siberia

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  • Eeep! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:06PM (#34677180) Homepage Journal

    Will Putin's ambitions stop at nothing?

    (Besides, a fast-moving magnetic pole screws up the UK's Ordinance Survey maps, which are magnetic north aligned.)

    • by xs650 (741277)
      If that's the case, the moving magnetic pole will eventually improve the Survey Maps by forcing the Brits to get away from using mag north for their survey maps.
    • by toastar (573882)

      a fast-moving magnetic pole screws up the UK's Ordinance Survey maps, which are magnetic north aligned.)

      This sounds really dumb, The British pretty much wrote the book on geodesy.

    • Re:Eeep! (Score:5, Informative)

      by jc79 (1683494) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:34PM (#34677418)
      Parent is wrong. Ordnance Survey maps are NOT magnetic north aligned. They are aligned to OS Grid North, which is fixed wrt the UK (but not congruent with True North). Each printed map sheet has a diagram indicating the deviation from grid north of magnetic north at the centre of the sheet at a given epoch. When taking a bearing with a protractor compass, it is necessary to account for the magnetic deviation before following that bearing (in Scotland, magnetic north is currently 2 deg west of grid north).
    • by bkaul01 (619795)

      (Besides, a fast-moving magnetic pole screws up the UK's Ordinance Survey maps, which are magnetic north aligned.)

      Would that be survey maps of local laws, or survey maps whose creation is mandated by law?

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:09PM (#34677198)

    The probable cause of this is a sudden shift in the tilt of our molten core. This would realign our magnetic poles.

    But it may also be indicative of a bigger problem. There was a film a few years back which explored the possibility of a sudden loss of angular momentum within the Earth's core. Without the spinning core, the magnetic field would be lost and our planet would lose the protection afforded to us by the magnetosphere. Essentially, we would become windswept by the solar wind and would end up without an atmosphere, much like Mars.

    The solution, the scientists in the film agreed, was to prepare several nuclear bombs which could be transported to the edge of the core (below the mantle) and detonated, thus restarting the spinning core. It seemed like a crazy theory, but with this sudden acceleration of the NMP, I think it might be wise to keep an eye on all of our options.

    • I bet the core is shifting because of the popularity of neodymium magnets.
      Damn kids buying them on the internet and shifting the balance.

    • Essentially, we would become windswept by the solar wind and would end up without an atmosphere, much like Mars.

      I don't get it, could you rephrase that as a worse analogy?

    • I had to look at your handle before I got that you were joking. :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Luckily the core is pretty absurdly massive. It's not going to suddenly lose all of it's kinetic energy without dumping it somewhere, a process which undoubtedly would be pretty impressive and noticeable.

      Also, that movie was terrible. ;) (and not just for it's absurd physics, because Sunshine (with an even more absurd premise) was actually pretty good)

    • The solution, the scientists in the film agreed, was to prepare several nuclear bombs which could be transported to the edge of the core (below the mantle) and detonated, thus restarting the spinning core.

      Nuclear bombs, detonated in the Earth's core. Seems rather Wile E. Coyote-ish. What could possibly go wrong?

    • The solution, the scientists in the film agreed, was to prepare several nuclear bombs which could be transported to the edge of the core (below the mantle) and detonated, thus restarting the spinning core.

      Sounds fantastic... anybody have back-of-the-napkin numbers as to how much energy it might take to restart the core spinning? I'm surprised that only a few nukes would do it.

    • That movie was a crap movie. Core wasnt it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572)

      The biggest problem is if the molten core shifts around, then the localized heat sources change, which changes the temperature of the ground surface, the oceans, and the atmosphere given enough time. This would eventually lead to civilization-annoying weather pattern changes, causing regular cycling climates (hot summer, cold snowy winter) to become either more extreme (hotter summer, colder winter) or tilted (hotter summer, winters that are cold and rainy). This of course distorts any functioning agraria

      • by DriedClexler (814907) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:34PM (#34677416)

        Climate shifts are due to the shifting magnetic properties of the earth's core?

        ~*SWEEEET!*~

        Thanks for giving me my latest skeptical counter-theory to anthropogenic global warming!

      • by demonbug (309515)

        The biggest problem is if the molten core shifts around, then the localized heat sources change, which changes the temperature of the ground surface, the oceans, and the atmosphere given enough time. This would eventually lead to civilization-annoying weather pattern changes, causing regular cycling climates (hot summer, cold snowy winter) to become either more extreme (hotter summer, colder winter) or tilted (hotter summer, winters that are cold and rainy). This of course distorts any functioning agrarian society while the whole disaster continues; things have to be moved around after the weather settles down again.

        Actually, geothermal energy at the surface of the earth is pretty negligible. Nearly all (99% +) thermal energy at the surface of the earth is due to solar radiation; it is unlikely that a lack of geothermal energy would have much of a direct impact on climate, although the end of all volcanic activity and specifically associated off-gassing would have a very significant effect.

    • by plover (150551) *

      Was that the made-for-SciFi-channel movie featuring Wil Wheaton as one of the scientists? I tuned in about halfway through and hadn't yet absorbed enough plotyons for it to keep my attention, so I never saw the end.

      But in terms of science and plausibility, I found the Mongolian Death Worm movie to be much more realistic.

    • Who cares about Molten Core?! You're three expansions late, dude.
    • build the shield from the movie with the aliens form zeist.

      Yes the movie is so bad I had to hide the name of it.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      No no no, are you crazy?

      Think of it this way. The planet's shields are effectively down. All we need to do is fill a photon torpedo with tachyons and launch it into the core so it reverses the core's polarity. That will fix everything.

    • by icebike (68054)

      The probable cause of this is a sudden shift in the tilt of our molten core. This would realign our magnetic poles.

      This is what happens when you get all of your "scientific knowledge" from movies people.

      Stay in school.

  • by snsh (968808) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:10PM (#34677202)
    This is good news. Everyone knows that you regain stability by moving all your poles into the right hand plane.
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:11PM (#34677208)
    On military tactical maps, there's a diagram for converting from grid North (straight up using MGRS maps) to magnetic north (where the needle points on a compass). It'll say add or subtract some number of degrees to convert from one to the other, and each map is different depending on where in the world it is depicting. Since many of these maps are several years old, I wonder what impact this will have on ground navigation?
    • On military tactical maps, there's a diagram for converting from grid North (straight up using MGRS maps) to magnetic north (where the needle points on a compass). It'll say add or subtract some number of degrees to convert from one to the other, and each map is different depending on where in the world it is depicting. Since many of these maps are several years old, I wonder what impact this will have on ground navigation?

      Probably little... for those applications where using the magnetic north pole is good enough, that'll likely stay the case if the pole shifts a bit. For applications where higher accuracy is needed, other systems like GPS would be used.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        I'm thinking specifically of orienteering, where the angle and distance is calculated off of a 1:50,000 scale map, and the angle is then converted to magnetic angle, and the distance converted to a pace count. A difference of even a degree can mean a big difference when you're pacing out a few thousand yards. Not every soldier and Marine has a handheld GPS, and this method of ground nav is still taught and used today. If a given map happens to be old and in a place on the globe where the difference is mo
        • Most of the maps that need that kind of accuracy are on a yearly update cycle anyway - for example aviation maps which also have the magnetic/geographic conversion numbers on them. I guess the military cartographers are very well aware of the problem and update accordingly. The drift within one year or whatever the upgrade cycle is shouldn't matter much.
          • by demonbug (309515)

            Most of the maps that need that kind of accuracy are on a yearly update cycle anyway - for example aviation maps which also have the magnetic/geographic conversion numbers on them. I guess the military cartographers are very well aware of the problem and update accordingly. The drift within one year or whatever the upgrade cycle is shouldn't matter much.

            Most maps and charts that show magnetic declination also include an approximate calculation to keep it more-or-less updated. In addition to the declination at the time the chart is made it will include an approximate direction and rate of annual change, something like 15.7 degrees west, moving east at 0.3 degrees per year.

            Not super accurate, but enough for nearly all purposes to keep it up to date between map updates.

        • by necro81 (917438)
          Yes, but let's say you are somewhere in the middle of North America: the pole would have to move hundreds of kilometers before you would get that 1-degree shift.

          I submit that: unless you are using surveying equipment or a theodolite, your measurement error, hasty reckoning, even your metal belt buckle, will probably have more effect than the shift in the location of magnetic north.
    • by plover (150551) *

      Aviation maps (sectional charts) expire after just a few months. I expect military maps have a similar lifetime. You wouldn't want to execute an attack only to find someone's unexpectedly dug a new drainage ditch through the middle of their fields.

      The new maps would have the current values for magnetic declination.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        You would never conduct a military op these days without recent overhead imagery anyway. And new paper maps would have the new declination diagram in the marginal information, but digital maps don't have the accompanying marginal information. I can imagine someone looking at an old paper map for the declination diagram and plotting the coordinates on a digital map on Google Earth or ArcGIS or something.
    • The military (US) maps I'm familiar with also indicate the rate of drift for magnetic north, so if you really need that accuracy (something we did in some cases for laying artillery firing batteries in the Olden Days without GPS and intertial nav systems...) you'd check the date of the map, calculate the current drift, and apply that corrected correction.

      So if rate of change is accelerating (2nd derivative), that makes the calculation a lot more interesting.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        That's interesting. I don't remember seeing rate of change in the declination diagram or elsewhere in the marginal information. Not that I knew what all was in there, but I did teach mapping for a few years in the Marine Corps (2000-2003). The maps we used were dated from about 1977 or so, and were updated while I was there (had to redo every test, quiz, prac ap, etc). When were the "Olden Days" for you?
        • ROTC mid '70s, active duty '78-'82, in the National Guard to about '94. Field Artillery Officer Basic was one of the few Officer courses you could flunk out of at that time with 2 segments you had to pass, Map Reading and Observed Fires.

        • by plover (150551) *

          As I recall (they're up in the cabin now, and unfortunately I'm not) the old maps we have of Lake of the Woods have a magnetic declination rose tilted slightly from the main true-north-facing rose. In the magnetic rose is a note that says something like "1978 values, changing at 7 minutes east per year."

          I remember being fascinated at the fact that the drift was predictable enough to publish. But would I trust that I could still take the map out now, multiply the value by 32 and it'd still be accurate? Th

    • Maritime and Aeronautic charts have the same correction scales to convert from map North (always at the top and aligned with Longitude) to magnetic North. These charts are re-issued (and the correction scales as well as other things updated) on a regular basis (and I suspect military tactical maps are as well), so age of the map will be less of an issue than you might think.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        The maps may be re-issued, printed and distributed. That doesn't mean everyone gets them. I was active duty Marine Corps, and our map room was stocked with 10-20 year old maps; or, rather, they were new looking maps that were last updated 10-20 years before. I can't recall anyone throwing out an otherwise perfectly good map after only a year, particularly for a new map that was probably only slightly different.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    From 2009 [slashdot.org] (almost the one year anniversary) and 2005 [slashdot.org].

  • So... now we should be concerned because the magnetic pole is "rapidly" heading towards the geographic pole? Oh noes!

    It is somewhat interesting that it is moving around pretty quickly, but it would be much more interesting if the magnetic pole was headed south instead; a little geomagnetic excursion from time to time is a healthy thing, don't you think?

    On the plus side, the declination printed on all those USGS sectionals should be getting more accurate again...

    • ... now we should be concerned because the magnetic pole is "rapidly" heading towards the geographic pole?

      Yes, because the magnetic pole being in Canada was one of the last interesting things about the country. What will they have left?

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:19PM (#34677298) Homepage

    How about we just stick a GIANT MAGNET right smack on the real North Pole? That way, we don't need to worry about the "natural" pole shifting. Set this artificial magnet to have a different frequency than the earth's natural magnetism, so we can set our compass magnets to that same frequency and not worry about interference. (This will also keep this valuable asset from wandering into Russian territory.)

    • Magnets.... frequency... what?
    • Quick! Is there a Geophysicist in the house???

      This would make an excellent in class calculation for a Geophysics lecture. Just how big a set neodymium magnets (one north, one south) would it take to override the earth's magnetic field? If installed, would the core actually align with it? How bad would it be if you installed them backwards?
      • This would make an excellent in class calculation for a Geophysics lecture. Just how big a set neodymium magnets (one north, one south) would it take to override the earth's magnetic field? If installed, would the core actually align with it? How bad would it be if you installed them backwards?

        Quick... someone find not just ONE magnetic monopole, but two!

    • But in order to generate enough magnetism to align the giant magnet we'd have to reroute power through the deflector dish and reverse polarity on the electromagnetic field; like souring the mother's milk.
    • by wcrowe (94389)

      I can't decide if this guy is trying to be funny, or if he's a member of Insane Clown Posse.

  • The magnetical north pole is on the opposite side of the planet, close to our geographical south pole; a compass' N needle points towards the magnetical south pole, but as we use compasses to orient towards our geographical south pole, we simply mark the needle N.
    • by clone52431 (1805862) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:53PM (#34677562)

      You’re confusing the issue unnecessarily, and you’re incorrect. The “North Magnetic Pole” is the one geographically near to the North Pole, although it is magnetically a south pole.

    • Well... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zinner (873653)
      Actually, the correct names are "North Seeking Pole" and "South Seeking Pole" shortened to North pole and South pole. The North (seeking) pole of the compass needle actually does point north. In the arctic, a standard hypothetical test monopole is repelled, making it north.
  • north pole goes to you.
  • . . . Compass needles point towards YOU!
  • ... north pole moves you to Siberia!

  • We need a new treaty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday December 27, 2010 @02:22PM (#34677796) Homepage Journal
    ..unless you are one of those deniers that think that the Global Pole Shifting wasnt caused by human activity.
  • Slartibartfast needs to fix this. This is what happens when you use untested software.

  • by ChiRaven (800537) on Monday December 27, 2010 @02:43PM (#34677952) Journal
    You just don't want to admit it. It's another inevitable byproduct of anthropogenic global warming caused by greenhouses gasses. That should be obvious to anyone. Expect the IPCC papers on the subject to be exposed by a whistle-blower any day now. Insiders are predicting that the studies will show that the pole is repelled by the stronger SOURCES of the gasses, but there is a lag effect, so it is only now moving away from US, and toward Siberia. In an exchange of email messages also to be released at the same time by this anonymous whistle-blower, two of the secondary authors are reported to have said "aren't these econometric models WONDERFULLY flexible?"
    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Well, there is a guy who claims that the weather trends we are experiencing is due to some convoluted connection to the effect of the sun's magnetic force interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. And he does have something to say about it's connection with AGW. [hulu.com]

  • If it's a good thing or neutral, it's just a natural process.

    If it's a bad thing then we did it. We need government action and trillions of dollars sent to third-world countries in order to stop it. How that's supposed to stop it, I don't know. Maybe the mass of all those dollar bills in the Southern hemisphere will cause the core to realign itself.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      For now it's good-to-neutral, magnetic north becoming actual north.
      But it may become rapidly unpleasant if it continues. Due to layout of magnetic lines, the magnetosphere doesn't protect the magnetic poles from solar wind, except the unprotected "pits" are perpendicular to it, so no harm done. But if the magnetic poles move closer to the tropics, aiming towards the Sun, some inhabited areas can become dangerously exposed to cosmic rays.

      Natural or not, it would definitely mean trouble for these areas, and t

  • 55 km per year = 10.5 furlongs per fortnight

  • by frisket (149522)
    So if it continues to accelerate, will it pass through the geographic north pole on 21st Dec 2012? :-)
  • Santa's having to spend all of his energy moving his workshop whenever the North Pole shifts. This screws up Christmas gift giving, which is a major economic driver.

    Somehow this is all Bush's fault - and like everything else Obama's just putting Bush's policies on steroids...

  • ... sounds like it is moving SOUTH to me, not north by northwest.

  • The tags on this one "bushsfault", "obama", and "global warming" make me worry. The Earth's magnetic poles are KNOWN [wikipedia.org] to reverse themselves. In fact we're due for one very soon. Sad, not funny, to see asinine references to political and non-associated environmental causes. Pathetic, really.
  • Supermodels Anja Rubik and Joanna Krupa.

    They're very attractive!

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