The north magnetic pole is moving away from its traditional home in the Canadian Arctic and headed for Siberia because of a fierce battle of battle carried out by two giant clumps hiding deep underground, on the core-mantle border, a new study found.
These lumps, areas of negative magnetic flow under Canada and Siberia, are in a winner-take-all struggle. Already, because this lump changes shape and magnetic intensity, a winner has appeared; from 1999 to 2019, while clots under Canada weakened, clumps under Siberia increased slightly, the researchers found. “Together, these changes cause the north magnetic pole to move towards Siberia,” the researchers wrote in the study.
“We have never seen anything like this before,” study lead researcher Phil Livermore, a professor of geophysics at the University of Leeds in England, told Live Science in an email.
When scientists first discovered the north magnetic pole (the point where your compass needle was pointing) in 1831, it was in the northern Canadian region of Nunavut. Soon, researchers realized that the north magnetic poles tended to wander, but usually did not stray far. Then, from 1990 to 2005, the annual magnetic polar cruise jumped from historic speeds of no more than 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year to as many as 37 miles (60 km) per year, the researchers wrote in the study.
In October 2017, the north magnetic pole crossed the international date line and entered the Eastern Hemisphere, passing 242 miles (390 km) from geographic north pole. Then, the north magnetic pole starts moving south. The change is so fast, that in 2019, geologists will do it forced to publish a new World Magnetic Model, maps that inform everything from aircraft navigation to GPS on smartphones, one year into the future.
Guess who the polar left Canada for Siberia. That was until Livermore and his colleagues realized that the lump was, for the most part, responsible.
Change the blob
Magnetic fields are generated by swirling liquids iron deep inside the Earth in the outer core. Thus, changes in sloshing iron can change the magnetic location north.
However, the magnetic field is not limited to the core; Magnetic field lines “protrude” from Earth, Livermore said. As it turns out, this blob is the place where these lines appear. “If you imagine a line [the] “magnetic fields are like soft spaghetti, so these patches will be like clusters of spaghetti sticking out of the Earth,” he said.
The researchers found that from 1999 to 2019, the clot under Canada extended from east to west and was divided into two smaller joined blobs, probably due to changes in the core flow pattern between 1970 and 1999. One of these clumps had a higher intensity than others, but overall this extension “caused the weakening of Canadian patches on the earth’s surface,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Furthermore, because of the split, the Canadian blob with a higher intensity is closer to the Siberia blob. This, in turn, increased Siberian lumps, the researchers wrote.
However, the two blobs are in fragile equilibrium, so that “only a slight re-adjustment of the current configuration is needed to reverse the current trend” of the magnetic north polar current traveling to Siberia, the researchers wrote in the study. In other words, tweaking it to one blob or the other could send the North Magnetic pole back to Canada.
Reconstruction of the past magnetic north pole movement shows that two lumps – and sometimes three – have affected the position of the poles over time. These lumps have pushed poles to roam around northern Canada for the past 400 years, the researchers said.
“But over the past 7,000 years, [the north magnetic pole] “It seems to have moved in a chaotic fashion around the geographic poles, indicating there is no preferred location,” the researchers wrote in the study. The poles also moved towards Siberia in 1300 BC, according to the model.
It’s hard to say what will happen next. “Our prediction is that the pillar will continue to move towards Siberia, but predicting the future is challenging and we cannot be certain,” Livermore said.
The estimate will depend on “detailed monitoring of the geomagnetic field of the Earth’s surface and space in the coming years,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online May 5 in the journal. Natural Geoscience.
Originally published in Direct Science.
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