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Magnetic North Pole has now crossed the Prime Meridian

Magnetic north has been moving away from its home in the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia at a rate of about 34 miles (55 kilometers) a year over the past two decades. In February this year, the World Magnetic Model (WMM), finally got a much-needed update with the end of the extra-long U.S. government shutdown.

While updates to the WMM are normally issued every five years, the update earlier this year was needed because the changes were affecting compass apps, maps, and GPS services. The WMM is also the standard navigation tool for the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Defense, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and much more.

The latest model of the Earth’s magnetic field, released Dec. 10 by the National Centers for Environmental Information and the British Geological Survey, predicts that this movement will continue, though likely at a slower rate of 25 miles (40 kilometers) each year.

“It’s the fastest recorded shift seen since the mid-16th-century,” said Dr. Ciaran Beggan, a geophysicist at the British Geological Survey. “Magnetic records show the north magnetic pole has been meandering about Canada from 1590 until 1990 when it suddenly accelerated, gaining speed over the past 30 years, going from less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per year to almost 60 kilometers (37 miles) per year.”

Swarm is ESA's first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magneti...

Swarm is ESA’s first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magnetic signals from Earth’s core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere, providing data that will allow scientists to study the complexities of our protective magnetic field.
ESA/AOES Medialab


As for the South Pole, it has been moving too, although at a slower speed. Magnetic south does not line up with the geographic south; it was at 64.13 S 136.02 E off the coast of Antarctica as of February 2019.

Based on the WMM 2020 coefficients for 2020 – the geomagnetic north pole is at 72.68°W longitude and 80.65°N latitude, and the geomagnetic south pole is at 107.32°E longitude and 80.65°S latitude.

Blackout Zones now included
This latest WMM also has something new – Blackout zones. Blackout zones around the magnetic poles are defined as areas around the north and south magnetic poles where compass accuracy is highly degraded.

The BoZ are regions around the north and south magnetic poles where the horizontal intensity of Earth’s magnetic field (H) is less than 2000 nT. In BoZs, WMM declination values are not accurate and compasses are unreliable. The BoZ around the pole between 2000 and 0nT is the “Unreliable Zone” where compasses may become inaccurate.

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World Magnetic Model


Will the poles do a flip-flop?
Despite the conspiracy theorist rantings over the shifting poles causing a mass-extinction event, the only thing we know for sure is that the WMM is moving. Whether the Earth’s magnetic fields will finally strengthen again, or lead to a reversal of the poles is unknown.

However, both events have happened in Earth’s history without any notable effect on biology. However, modern navigation systems rely on the magnetic north and will have to be recalibrated as the poles continue to wander. Already, for example, airports have had to rename some of their runways, which have names based on compass directions.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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