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Earthís magnetic field is acting up and geologists donít know why


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#1 pete_c

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 01:48 PM


Nature dot com
NEWS 09 January 2019
Alexandra Witze



Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

The problem lies partly with the moving pole and partly with other shifts deep within the planet. Liquid churning in Earth’s core generates most of the magnetic field, which varies over time as the deep flows change. In 2016, for instance, part of the magnetic field temporarily accelerated deep under northern South America and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Satellites such as the European Space Agency’s Swarm mission tracked the shift.

By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.


Wandering pole

 

Attached File  wonderingpole.jpg   154.57K   15 downloads

“That was an interesting situation we found ourselves in,” says Chulliat. “What’s happening?” The answer is twofold, he reported last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC.

First, that 2016 geomagnetic pulse beneath South America came at the worst possible time, just after the 2015 update to the World Magnetic Model. This meant that the magnetic field had lurched just after the latest update, in ways that planners had not anticipated.

Second, the motion of the north magnetic pole made the problem worse. The pole wanders in unpredictable ways that have fascinated explorers and scientists since James Clark Ross first measured it in 1831 in the Canadian Arctic. In the mid-1990s it picked up speed, from around 15 kilometres per year to around 55 kilometres per year. By 2001, it had entered the Arctic Ocean — where, in 2007, a team including Chulliat landed an aeroplane on the sea ice in an attempt to locate the pole.

In 2018, the pole crossed the International Date Line into the Eastern Hemisphere. It is currently making a beeline for Siberia.

The geometry of Earth’s magnetic field magnifies the model’s errors in places where the field is changing quickly, such as the North Pole. “The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors,” says Chulliat.

To fix the World Magnetic Model, he and his colleagues fed it three years of recent data, which included the 2016 geomagnetic pulse. The new version should remain accurate, he says, until the next regularly scheduled update in 2020.


Core questions

In the meantime, scientists are working to understand why the magnetic field is changing so dramatically. Geomagnetic pulses, like the one that happened in 2016, might be traced back to ‘hydromagnetic’ waves arising from deep in the core1. And the fast motion of the north magnetic pole could be linked to a high-speed jet of liquid iron beneath Canada2.

The jet seems to be smearing out and weakening the magnetic field beneath Canada, Phil Livermore, a geomagnetist at the University of Leeds, UK, said at the American Geophysical Union meeting. And that means that Canada is essentially losing a magnetic tug-of-war with Siberia.

“The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,” Livermore says. “The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”

Which means that the world’s geomagnetists will have a lot to keep them busy for the foreseeable future.



#2 mikefamig

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 03:44 PM

Oh great, one more thing that I don't understand but keeps me awake at night anyway. I wonder if this has anything to do with the intensity and frequency of catastrophic storms and quakes that we've been seeing all around the globe. I've considered the melting of the caps being the primary influence on the weather but never gave any thought to our magnetic poles.

 

Did you know that the earth wobbles in it's path around the sun?

 

http://www.bbc.com/e...kes-and-wobbles

 

Mike.



#3 mikefamig

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 03:46 PM

Wouldn't this mean that our equator is moving also?



#4 pvrfan

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:39 AM

So its a Canada-Russia Summit series all over again?  Who is going to step up and apply a hockey stick to the ankle?!?

 

Craig

Paul Henderson is from my hometown.  I was in grade 6 and we all got to go to the gym to watch the final game during what was supposed to be class time.  And then he scored the winning goal...



#5 pete_c

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:58 AM

In the 1960's one of my first ham radio contacts was to a base near the north pole (Canada side)....what I got from the communications (and I was a kid) was that these guys were totally bored up there and had really nothing much to do (~ 1967 or so).






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