So the Northern Magnetic Pole Is Moving. That's Wild.

The fact that the Northern Magnetic Pole is moving is not the wild part – the wild part is that it is suddenly moving very quickly, at least by Magnetic North Pole standards.

On average, the Pole used to move about 6 miles per year, meandering aimlessly about the farthest Northern reaches of the Canadian archipelagos. However, that has changed these past few years. The rate has picked up and the pole is now moving roughly 30 miles per year. It’s course is no longer meandering, now it is making a bee-line for Siberia.

Image source: Jonatan Pie

Why does this matter you may ask? Well, if you happen to be a humble, sea-worn salmon fisherman and are fishing near the pole, you need to know where that pole is. Inaccurate navigational readings can be gravely dangerous in arctic conditions, and with them you may never see your sweet family of four and two dogs again.

Fisherman example aside, the closer a person is to the pole, the more paramount it is to have accurate navigational capabilities. That being said, the entire world relies on knowing where the pole is. We rely on accurate readings for everything from aircraft flight plans to the GPS on your phone. Organizations such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service are becoming increasingly concerned, as the rate at which the pole is moving could begin to affect their everyday operations.

Image source: Robert Penazola

The location of Magnetic North is usually updated every 5 years, the last time being in 2015. Yet this past Monday, due to the sudden increase in movement of the World Magnetic Model, the organization dedicated to tracking the poles decided to make the update early.

The reasons are unclear for this sudden change in pace and direction. Scientists have theorized that it might be due to a flare in Earth’s molten outer core.

It is this molten layer that creates the Earth’s magnetic field. The layer lies 1,800 miles below the surface, and is made of molten iron and nickel. The metals are so hot that they flow like liquid and circulate around the core. The magnetic pole may be ‘caught up’ in this flare or jet stream and is being dragged towards Siberia.

This is just one theory of many. Another theory is that the magnetic poles are beginning to switch. This is, believe it or not, natural and the last time it happened was about 780,000 years ago. Also Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening in recent history, which could be another sign to support this theory. But there is no need for alarm, as the switching of poles is a slow process, taking roughly 1,000 years to complete.

So as long as you are not a sea-worn fisherman in the Arctic Circle, things should be fine.

Image source: Annie Sprat