Scientists Warn Earth's Magnetic North Pole is Moving 'Erratically'
Researchers say the magnetic North Pole is 'skittering' from Canada
Scientists and researchers claim that the Earth's magnetic fields are shifting at speeds so fast they have been forced to issue an emergency update to global maps using electronic navigation systems.
The researchers' alarm comes after they noticed the magnetic North Pole is 'skittering' from Canada, towards Siberia.
The problem is severe; global researchers are struggling to update a global model of the fields.
Known as the World Magnetic Model, it carries all modern navigation including navigating ships to Google Maps on smartphones
The most recent update came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020.
The magnetic field is changing so quickly that researchers say the model needs fixing immediately.
The fix has now been delayed until the 30th January amid the ongoing government shutdown.
The magnetic field is in a permanent state of flux, they say.
The Magnetic north tends to move, and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips so that a compass point would reverse from south to north
"The error is increasing all the time," Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetic at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Centers for Environmental Information, told Nature.
"In early 2018, as part of our regular assessment of the WMM, we found that the model exceeded its specification for declination only three years into the five-year WMM cycle," he told the American Geophysical Union meeting.
"We investigated this error and tracked it down to the combined effect of a global geomagnetic acceleration pulse occurring in 2015-2016, and a fast-changing magnetic field in the North polar area."
"A remarkable manifestation of the field variation is the drift of the North magnetic pole towards Russia, which has been occurring at the unusually high speed of about 50 km per year since the beginning of the 21st century."
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"On the contrary, the South magnetic pole drift is very slow (less than 10 km per year) and has not changed much over the past few decades, and hence provided a much smaller contribution to the overall model declination error."
To fix the model, the scientist fed it three years of recent data, which included a 2016 geomagnetic pulse.
He says the new model should remain accurate until the next regularly scheduled update in 2020.
According to the DailyMail: Phil Livermore, geomagnetism at the University of Leeds, UK, said at the American Geophysical Union meeting 'the location of the north magnetic pole seems to be directed by two large-scale patches of the magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,' Livermore says.
Scientists in recent years have predicted that Earth's magnetic field could be preparing to 'flip' – a shift in which the magnetic south pole would become magnetic north, and vice versa.
Such an event could have catastrophic consequences, wreaking destruction on the electric grid and leaving life at the surface exposed to higher quantities of solar radiation.
While it's previously been believed that these reversals take place at intervals of hundreds of thousands of years, one recent study implies it could happen in just a matter of centuries.
Scientists estimate Earth's North and South magnetic poles flip every 200,000-300,000 years.
But, it's been roughly 780,000 years since the last such event, causing many to assume we're overdue.
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When the magnetic poles flip, Earth's protective magnetic field weakens, leaving its inhabitants at higher risk from the effects of space weather.
Earth's magnetic field, which has existed for at least 3.45 billion years, gives a shield from the direct impact of solar radiation,' said Professor Roberts from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.
"Even with Earth's strong magnetic field today, we're still susceptible to solar storms that can damage our electricity-based society."
In the new study, researchers at the Australian National University analyzed the paleomagnetic record from 107,000 to 91,000 years ago by analyzing a stalagmite from a cave in southwestern China.
The team conducted magnetic analysis and radiometric dating on the meter-long sample, showing the behavior of the ancient magnetic field.
And, they found the magnetic field underwent a fast shift throughout about two centuries, declining in strength by about 90 percent when a field reversal happened.