Earth's magnetic north pole shifting continues; why has the drift slowed down?

As the earth's north magnetic pole is drifting, scientists are still unclear whether it is gearing up for a flip-flop switching north and south

A new study has confirmed that the drifting of earth's magnetic north pole which has been moving faster than expected has crossed the prime meridian. Previous studies had suggested that the magnetic north pole of the earth has been moving away from its previous home in the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia at a rate of about 55 kilometres a year in the past two decades.

However, as per the new report released by the National Centers for Environmental Information and the British Geological Survey, it has been learned that movement is still continuing, but at a slower rate of 40 kilometres each year.

Significance of the earth's magnetic north pole

earth magnetic north pole
Representational Image Pixabay

The model of the earth's magnetic north pole has crucial significance in calibrating GPS and other measurements. Even though the north magnetic pole has been drifting since the 1830s, its movement increased over the past few years, and this phenomenon had recently compelled scientists to update the World Magnetic Model which is widely used by civilian navigation systems.

The earth's magnetic field is the result of the churning of the planet's iron outer core, that in turn produces a complex north-south magnetic field. However, due to unknown interior dynamics within the planet, the magnetic field is currently going through a weakening stage, and it is resulting in the drift of the magnetic north pole.

Ciaran Beggan, a scientist from the British Geological Survey (BGS), in a recent interaction with the Business Insider revealed that all compasses will probably point eastward of true north if this movement continues at this pace.

"Magnetic north has spent the last 350 years wandering around the same part of Canada. But since the 1980s, the rate it was moving jumped from 6.2 miles per year to 31 miles. By 2040, all compasses will probably point eastward of true north," said Beggan.

Will earth's magnetic pole shift living beings?

It is still unclear whether the earth's magnetic north pole which is currently drifting is gearing up for a flip-flop switching north and south, or sometimes, the magnetic field will strengthen again, and it will stop the drifting process.

However, living beings on the earth need not worry, as such magnetic pole shifts had happened in the past without any negative effects on the planet's biology. But recalibration should be done on navigation devices, as these types of equipment usually make use of the World Magnetic Model to function.

This article was first published on December 17, 2019