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All rights reserved. While magnetic north has always wandered, its routine plod has shifted into high gear, sending it galloping across the Northern Hemisphere—and no one can entirely explain why. Magnetic north has never sat still. In the last hundred years or so, the direction in which our compasses steadfastly point has lumbered ever northward, driven by Earth 's churning liquid Various - North core some 1, miles beneath the surface.
Yet in recent years, scientists noticed something unusual: Magnetic north's routine plod has shifted into high gear, sending it galloping across the Northern Hemisphere—and no one can entirely explain why. The changes have been so large that scientists began working on an emergency update for the World Magnetic Model, the mathematical system that lays the foundations for navigation, from cell phones and ships to commercial airlines.
But then the U. Now, the wait for a new north is over. The World Magnetic Model update was officially released on Monday, and magnetic north can again be precisely located for people around the The Basiqs - Your Life Is Calling. Questions still likely abound: Why is magnetic north changing so fast?
What were the impacts of the update's delay? Was there really a geologic reason Google maps sent me off course? We've got you covered. First, there's true north, which is the northern end of the axis on which our planet turns. But our planet's protective magnetic bubble, or magnetosphere, isn't perfectly aligned with this spin.
Instead, the dynamo of Earth's core creates a magnetic field that is slightly tilted from the planet's rotational axis. The northern end of this planet-size bar magnet is what's known as geomagnetic north—a point sitting off the northwest coast of Greenland that's changed position little over the last century.
Then there's Various - North north, what your compass locates, which is defined as the point at which magnetic field lines point vertically down. Unlike geomagnetic north, this position is more susceptible to the surges and flows in the swirl of liquid iron in the core. These currents tug on the magnetic field, sending magnetic north hopping across the globe.
James Clark Ross first located magnetic north in in the scattered Various - North of Canada's Nunavut territory. Since Various - North , the pole has largely marched north, traversing hundreds of miles over the last several decades. Curiously, its polar opposite, magnetic south, has moved little during this time.
Various - North keep up with all these changes, the U. The model is updated every five years, with the last update in Between each update, scientists check the model's Various - North against data from ground magnetic observatories and the European Space Agency's Swarm mission —a trio of magnetic-field mapping satellites that zip around Earth 15 to 16 times each day. Until now, this seemed sufficient to keep up with magnetic north's march toward Siberia.
In the mid s, the north magnetic pole was lumbering along at less than a hundred feet each day, adding up to less than seven miles of difference each year. But in the '90s, this started to change.
By the early aughts, magnetic north Indian Suite - Giorgio Gaslini - Giorgio Gaslini (The Complete Remastered Recordings On Dischi Della chugging along at some 34 miles each year.
Though the events could be linked, it's not yet possible to say for sure. By earlyscientists realized that the model would soon exceed the acceptable limits for magnetic-based navigation.
Something had to be done before the model's next regular Various - North , slated for This updated version Various - North pre-released online in October As Beggan explains, these include the model's primary users in defense and military —the U. Department of Defense, the U. The government shutdown delayed the comprehensive public release of the information, which includes online calculators, software, and a technical note describing the changes.
In principal, everyone who uses magnetic navigation could benefit from this update, says Arnaud Chulliata geomagnetist at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a NOAA affiliate who worked on the update. The model has found its way into many of our modern mapping systems, including Google and Apple, Beggan adds. But the difference is minor for most civilian purposes, and the changes are mainly limited to latitudes above 55 degrees.
Interest in these unexpected jolts is about more than mapping. The dance of Earth's magnetic field lines presents one of the few windows scientists have to processes that happen thousands of miles below your feet. The north magnetic pole seems to be controlled by two patches of magnetic field, he explains, one under northern Canada and one under Siberia. Historically, the one under northern Canada seems to have been stronger, keeping the magnetic pole in its clutches. But recently, that seems to have changed.
This may be a result of a jet within the core smearing and thus weakening the magnetic field under Canada, he says. The jet's increase in speed seems to have Various - North with the Various - North few decades of the magnetic pole zipping north.
But he cautions about jumping to any definite conclusions. It's tough to predict what will happen to the magnetic north pole—or whether it's even going to maintain its speed as it staggers toward Siberia, notes Robyn Fioria research scientist with Natural Various - North Canada. The only thing that seems certain about magnetic north is its unpredictability.
Rocks hold geologic maps of even weirder movements of the magnetic poles, suggesting that in the last 20 million years, magnetic north and south have flipped places multiple times. This seems to happen roughly every Jimmie Davis - Rockin Blues, toyears. The exact causes behind these reversals remains uncertain.
But the latest movement shouldn't have you in knots about an imminent flip. Here's what we know. Models of magnetic north suggest that this latest leap isn't even the strangest thing the pole has done in more recent history, Fiori adds.
Beforeits wanderings likely once Various - North a lot more wiggle and may include several hairpin turns in northern Canada that could have sent the pole on a brief southward stint.
It's therefore hard to say if magnetic north's newfound speed is the new normal. What we know is what it's doing now is different, and that's always exciting scientifically. Read Caption.
Magnetic north just changed. Here's what that means. The foundation of many navigation systems, the World Magnetic Model finally got a much-needed update with the end of the U. By Maya Various - North . Earth Earth Various - North the only planet known to maintain life.
Find out the origins of our home planet and some of the key ingredients that help make this blue speck in space a unique global ecosystem. What is the World Magnetic Model? Did the This Time - John Cougar* - Nothin Matters And What If It Did shutdown upset navigation? What caused all this weirdness? Join the crew of the National Geographic Fleet to explore the northernmost part of the Earth.
The types of navigation that can benefit from the new model have also been updated, and the spelling of Arnaud Chulliat's name has been corrected.
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