The North Magnetic Pole’s Mysterious Journey Across the Arctic

The North Magnetic Pole’s Mysterious Journey Across the Arctic

But for most people at low- and mid-latitudes, the current model is safe to use.

“South of 65 degrees north and away from Canada, the average user will notice very little difference to their daily life,” said Ciaran Beggan, a geophysicist at B.G.S.

With the updates now complete, scientists are anxious to understand the causes of the pole’s Siberian sprint. “It’s clear that something strange is happening,” said Phil Livermore, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England.

On multiple occasions during Earth’s long history, the magnetic field has weakened dramatically. The north magnetic pole slipped toward the bottom of the planet, and the south magnetic sauntered toward the top. The process took a few thousand years, but by the time the field’s full strength returns, it has flipped.

The pole’s recent journey, along with other changes — like a weakening of Earth’s magnetic field — has led some scientists to wonder whether such a reversal might be around the corner, geologically speaking.

“It does tick off some of the boxes of magnetic reversal,” said Courtney Sprain, a geophysicist at the University of Liverpool in England, who added that, “we definitely can’t say that for sure.”

Most scientists, including Dr. Sprain, doubt an impending geomagnetic reversal. First, while the north magnetic pole does appear to be on the move, it doesn’t represent a global phenomenon, just a regional one.

Dr. Livermore, for example, thinks there are two large magnetic structures in the planet’s outer core, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia, which interact together to emit the magnetic pole.

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