The Earth’s magnetic poles are constantly shifting, and scientists believe they’ve figured out why.
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The North and South poles are often thought of as the centers of magnetic North and magnetic South, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The magnetic North and South are really mobile and magnetic North, in particular, is moving faster than we originally thought it could.
The prevailing theory about why our planet has a magnetic field, or magnetosphere, in the first place is called dynamo theory. Dynamo theory says the reason behind Earth’s magnetosphere is because of what lies underneath the crust.
It’s the idea that the molten metals of Earth’s outer core, like iron, are being swirled all around the Earth’s interior, around the solid inner core, continuously creating electric currents as charged particles move through this liquid metal, and—in combination with the rotation of the Earth—becomes what’s called a dynamo: the source of a magnetic field.
So because the liquid that creates the magnetosphere is always shifting, so are the magnetic poles.
The science community is coming up with creative and experimental ways to to figure out the reasoning behind the magnetic poles shifting so quickly, and to further probe the Earth’s magnetic behavior.
Earth’s magnetic field has flipped entirely in the past, we are long overdue for some magnetic migration, and it is happening at a rapid pace. So what does a shifting magnetic field actually mean for us? Learn more on this episode of Elements.
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Magnetic North, Geomagnetic and Magnetic Poles
“These poles are drifting according to slow and smooth change in the geomagnetic field called “the geomagnetic secular variation.”
Are the Earth’s magnetic poles moving? How do navigators adjust to this change?
“The magnetic poles are quite distant from their geographic counterparts. The North magnetic pole is located to the south in Northern Canada; the geographic South pole is at the center of the Antarctic continent, but the magnetic pole is hundreds of miles away, near the coast. In regions near the magnetic poles, compasses are virtually useless.”
The north pole is moving and if it flips, life on Earth is in trouble
“When a magnetic rock formation such as feldspar gets hot and then cools again, crystals within it align themselves with the prevailing field of the time. “Certain crystals have magnetic inclusions within them and they are excellent recorders of the magnetic field.”
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