The Magnetic North Pole Is on The Move

North Polar Region (Apr. 19, 2004) — The crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767) posted a sign reading “North Pole” made by the crew after surfacing in the polar ice cap region. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Kevin Elliott. (RELEASED)

Magnetic north is on the move, wandering toward Siberia.

If you check your compass now, it might give a faulty reading, rendering navigation less precise. A compass needle always points to the direction of the magnetic north. However, Scientists from an agency the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration and the British Geological Survey formed have just confirmed that the Earth’s north magnetic pole is no longer accurate since it’s been shifting for many years now. The scientists, who released the report a year ahead of schedule (it’s usually released every five years), just found that magnetic north has moved farther than they thought.

The magnetic north pole jumped the international dateline in 2017 and is currently moving from the Canadian Arctic and shifting toward Siberia. In fact, scientists say the magnetic north pole has been shifting at the distance of 34 miles (55 km) a year.

The Shifts Affect Humans, Aircraft, Boats, Electronic Equipment and Birds

The incessant shift of the magnetic north pole can cause a wide array of problems. Compasses in smartphones and in some electronics now work incorrectly as a result of the north pole shift. According to Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado, the movement also affects airplanes and boats since they rely on the position for navigation backup.

Several organizations equally rely on the accurate position of the magnetic north pole to operate. The U.S. military consults the magnetic pole in order to navigate and drop troops from parachutes. The U.S. Forest Service, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration also rely on the magnetic north pole. GPS doesn’t rely on magnetic north; it uses satellites to operate.

The position of the magnetic north pole was first measured in the Canadian Arctic in 1831. Since then, its position has shifted about 1,400 miles (2,300 km) in the general direction of Siberia. And from 2000 till now, the move increased from about nine miles (15 km) per year to 34 miles (55 km) per year.

Blame Turbulence in the Earth’s Core and Weakened Magnetic Fields

Scientists say the frequent shifts in turbulence in the Earth’s liquid outer core are the culprit. The turbulence produces a magnetic field inside the molten magma of iron and nickel situated within the Earth’s core. University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop compared the frequent move of the magnetic north pole to frequent weather changes.

The magnetic south pole, on the other hand, is shifting more slowly than the north pole.

Scientists also blame the weakening of the Earth’s magnetic field for the shifts, with fears that the magnetic field might flip; meaning the magnetic north and south poles might switch positions. Such flips have occurred several times since the Earth was formed but not in the past 780,000 years.

Lathrop is certain the flip will occur, but he is more concerned with when it will occur. He believes the Earth’s compromised magnetic field might cause the flip to occur sooner, with speculation that somewhere in the South Atlantic it has flipped already under the Earth. The estimates are the exchange will take about a thousand years. So, no, not Doomsday.

The reversal of the poles would definitely confuse birds that navigate by magnetic fields. It will also affect humans as well as satellites in orbit and astronauts in space. The magnetic fields of the Earth do a lot for inhabitants of the Earth and protect the Earth from dangerous radiation from the sun.

Originally published at on February 7, 2019.