Stray Signals

Scientists explain magnetic pole’s wanderings

Fascinated by how far the North Magnetic Pole has moved just in my lifetime. Also, always knew the geographic pole was separate from the magnetic, but did not fully realize there are actually TWO separate magnetic poles, nor understand the significant differences in relation to each.

Pondering the question – has this mag pole drift detectably altered radio propagation, either for classic F-layer HF paths, or for VHF reflection from auroras?

73, John, WØPV

European scientists think they can now describe with confidence what’s driving the drift of the North Magnetic Pole.

Animation – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p08cchxn/52550973

It’s shifted in recent years away from Canada towards Siberia.

And this rapid movement has required more frequent updates to navigation systems, including those that operate the mapping functions in smartphones.

A team, led from Leeds University, says the behaviour is explained by the competition of two magnetic “blobs” on the edge of the Earth’s outer core.

Changes in the flow of molten material in the planet’s interior have altered the strength of the above regions of negative magnetic flux.

“This change in the pattern of flow has weakened the patch under Canada and ever so slightly increased the strength of the patch under Siberia,” explained Dr Phil Livermore.

“This is why the North Pole has left its historic position over the Canadian Arctic and crossed over the International Date Line. Northern Russia is winning the ‘tug of war’, if you like,” he told BBC News.

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Artwork: Earth’s magnetic field is generated in its fluid outer core

Earth has three poles at the top of the planet. A geographic pole which is where the planet’s rotation axis intersects the surface. The geomagnetic pole is the location which best fits a classic dipole (its position alters little). And then there is the North Magnetic, or dip, Pole, which is where field lines are perpendicular to the surface.

It is this third pole that has been doing all the movement.

When first identified by explorer James Clark Ross in the 1830s, it was in Canada’s Nunavut territory.

Back then it didn’t wander very far, very fast. But in the 1990s, it took off, racing to ever higher latitudes and crossing the date line in late 2017. In the process, it came to within just a few hundred kilometres of the geographic pole.

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Regions of negative magnetic flux have been in a “tug of war”

Using data from

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