Magnetic north is moving quickly causing compasses to show misleading directions

Greg S

Posts: 1,607   +442

Compasses have been used for navigation long before GPS was ever even dreamed of. The magnetic north pole has always been moving, but the most recent release of the World Magnetic Model shows that it is moving very quickly, but nobody really knows how to predict its shift.

Since the model is created and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US government shutdown delayed the release of the latest data set. Everyday users of maps applications will never notice the subtleties caused by a misplaced magnetic pole, but submarines and aircraft do still rely on compasses in addition to newer technologies.

If any Google Maps of Apple Maps users were navigating above latitudes of 55 degrees, there is a good chance that the screen would not correctly show directional orientation. However, chances are very low that anyone is traveling around the Arctic region using only their smartphone for directions.

Airport runways are named with numeric identifiers based on where magnetic north is. Denver International Airport has changed designations by 2.5 degrees since it opened 22 years ago. If the magnetic model is not frequently updated, confusion could easily arise when runway names do not match with instrumentation.

Given that most compasses in use for navigation are now digital or are part of digital systems, software updates can easily remedy the situation. Aircraft, submarines, and handheld devices can all be patched with relatively simple fixes.

Magnetic north is currently moving more than 34 miles per year, up from just seven miles throughout the mid 1900s. The one thing scientists can all agree upon is that the movement of magnetic poles is impossible to accurately forecast for the future. North and south magnetic poles have traded places multiple times throughout history as shown from geologic observations, each change happening between 200,000 and 300,000 years apart.

A magnetic tug-of-war type event has been going on between a region under Canada and Siberia. Most recently, it appears that magnetic north is shifting more rapidly towards Siberia, but that could change without warning at any time.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,078   +5,439
Certainly not "new news" since it's been discussed for years. The poles are switching, the only question that remains is what, if any, will be the devastating effects on the planet's occupants but since it takes quite awhile for it to actually happen the effects. NASA see's the good news it all of it ....

"The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is – in terms of geologic time scales – a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia. While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable – the north pole's movement could subtly change direction, for instance – there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the 2012 doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously. A reversal might, however, be good business for magnetic compass manufacturers."

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,381   +1,354
TechSpot Elite
The magnetic poles may be switching or they may just be doing typical wandering. There's just not enough data with geologic time scale events to predict what's actually happening on our human timescale.
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Posts: 2,417   +1,686
Surprised they didn't blame this on "global warming" (climate change).
It's also why you see them from time to time, repaint the compass numbers on
Wonder if the poles switch, if we moved the penguins from the south pole, the polar bears
from the north pole (again after they switch) would they know the difference LOL.
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Posts: 2,871   +2,603
So you mean to tell me that all that "science" that some churches rejected...about Earth being 4.6 billion years old - rather than 6000, and the Plates actually moving - and proof of it being in the sea floor's magnetic banding...was true???


Posts: 172   +162
The magnetic poles may be switching or they may just be doing typical wandering. There's just not enough data with geologic time scale events to predict what's actually happening on our human timescale.
Volcanologist have a detailed history of magnetic reversal going back millions of years. These shifts are literally baked into old lava flows locking the rock into a specific banded polarity. It's actually pretty cool. Do a google image search of "magnetic reversal lava flow" and you'll see some really sweet examples of this.
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Posts: 2,969   +742
At its current rate 34 miles per year it would take 232 years to get to the south pole?

Earths polar diameter of 12713.6 km (7899.86 mi}.

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Bullwinkle M

Posts: 324   +206
"the most recent release of the World Magnetic Model shows that it is moving very quickly, but nobody really knows how to predict its shift."

Lets see............shifts occuring 200, 000 - 300,000 years apart

Earth recently passed through the galactic equator.....

2 magnets side by side will shift their magnetic orientation when one goes above or below the magnetic equator of the other........


Is this happening to all the planets in our Solar System or just us?

Is anyone checking?


Well then......It sure is a mystery

passing through the galactic plane however does not match the 200,000 - 300,000 year timescale of magnetic flips

For that, you should be looking for something much closer to us than the galactic core, thereby having a greater effect on our magnetic field and matching the period described
Like a black hole or star cluster within the spiral arm

The magnetic and gravitational fields of the stars within the spiral arm cause a rotation of the arm itself and the period of rotation is much different from rotation around the galactic core

The rotation within the spiral arm causes the Earth to rise above and below the galactic core and the distance from the core

This is a just one factor in repeated Ice ages and Global Warming cycles
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Posts: 3,836   +1,183
Just a reminder, there are seismic events happening all around the world.

For example, in 2010 there was one of such magnitude that changed Earth's axis of rotation. I'm flying this one just through my logic so I could be mistaken, but such an event could've changed more than just the axis.

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,381   +1,354
TechSpot Elite
Every seismic event changes the Earth's rotation by a very slight amount. That whole action-reaction thing that Newton went on about. Any earthquake in 2010 had as much to do with the magnetic pole wandering as any other earthquake (read: none, as the dynamo generating the magnetic field is generated deep in the interior while earthquakes occur much closer to the surface).