A lot of us have been taught in school where North and South is, but what you may not know is that there are two North Poles (one is geographic and the other is magnetic), and that the magnetic poles are in flux. Alanna Mitchell, an award-winning Canadian scientific journalist explains that as of the moment, the planet’s magnetic poles seem to be like a bar magnet which holding two dominant poles; but studies suggest that Earth has had something from four, six, and eight poles at the same time over hundreds or thousands of years at a time, and this is what happened when the magnetic poles changed in the past.
The last 40 years has shown so much shift that scientists made an pre-emptive update to the World Magnetic Model (WMM) on February 2019. Ciaran Beggan from the British Geological Survey indicates that before, the Magnetic North was in the same part of Canada for 350 years but has moved since the 1980s. Its rate of movement previously was 10 kilometers per year but has now increased to 50 kilometers per year over the last 40 years, forcing the WMM to change the map of the Earth’s magnetic field. Beggan says that by 2040, all the traditional compasses will not point to the True North, but eastward of it, noting that the Magnetic North is progressing towards Northern Russia.
The most crucial application of magnetic fields is how we navigate the Earth. With this much flux, the WMM work helps militaries, commercial airlines, and ships navigate the planet. Note that the WMM is not a still picture of what the planet’s magnetic field looks like every five years. According to IFL Science, what it is, is a list of numbers allowing devices and navigators to calculate how the magnetic field looks like at any point of the planet during the five years after the model is published.
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