The Earth's magnetic field protects us from the solar wind by deflecting charged particles. And according to new data, Earth's magnetic N Pole, which has moved faster than expected in recent years, has now crossed the prime meridian.
Earth's magnetic north has been moving from its previous position in the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia at a speed of about 55 kilometers per year for the past two decades. And this movement will continue, albeit probably at a slower pace of 40 km each year.
Why is the Earth's magnetic field drifting north?
The Earth's magnetic field is created by churning the planet's iron outer core, which creates a complex, but mostly North-South magnetic field.
For reasons not fully understood, but related to the internal dynamics of the planet, the magnetic field is currently undergoing a period of weakening. This is why magnetic north is drifting.
As of February 2019, magnetic north was located at 86.54 N 170.88 E, within the Arctic Ocean. On the other side of the globe, the magnetic South also does not coincide with the geographic South. It was at 64.13 S 136.02 E off the coast of Antarctica as of February 2019.
World Magnetic Model Updates
Scientists release a new version of the World Magnetic Model every five years, so this 2020 update was expected.
The 2020 model shows a "blackout" zone around magnetic North where compasses become unreliable and fail due to the proximity of true North.
The new maps also show the magnetic northeast of the prime meridian, the border the pole crossed in September 2019.
The main, or Greenwich, meridian is the meridian that was established as the official marker of zero degrees, zero minutes, and zero seconds in 1884. It passes through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England.
In February 2019, however, they had to release the update ahead of schedule due to the fast clamping of magnetic North movements.
Perhaps a pole reversal is about to happen?
It is currently unclear if Earth's magnetic poles are heading towards a north-south trigger - or if the magnetic field will soon be stronger again.
Both events took place in the history of the Earth without any discernible impact on biology.
However, modern navigation systems rely on magnetic north and must be recalibrated as the poles continue to wander.
The magnetic world model is used to calibrate GPS and other navigation measurements. For example, airports have already been forced to rename some of their runways, which have names based on compass directions.