According to new research published in the Geophysical Research journal, findings show that the magnetic North Pole is changing positions at an astoundingly quick pace. It looks like Santa may have to relocate his base of operations within the next couple of decades.
The Blame Game
Presently located inside Canada, within a couple decades, the North Pole could be planted firmly in Russian territory. Scientists believe that changes deep within the Earth’s molten core are to blame for the shift, although it is difficult to measure and track those changes.
Researchers have detected a disturbance on the surface of the core that is creating a “magnetic plume”. It’s this plume which is believed to be the culprit behind the change in the Pole’s location. Unfortunately, the underlying mechanics of how the plume was created remains a mystery to scientists.
The North Pole Is On The Move
The pole’s movement is no surprise to scientists, they have known the pole was moving for quite some time. What’s surprising researchers is the speed at which it’s currently moving. It has many scratching their heads.
Throughout the 20th century, the magnetic north pole has been slowly (but steadily) moving north at about 9 miles per year. However, it has sped up considerably in recent years. Currently, it’s trucking along in the same direction at 40 miles per year – over 4 times faster than previous measurements.
It’s not entirely uncommon for the Earth to reverse its magnetic polarity. By reversing its polarity, the Earth’s magnetic field completely flip-flops. The north pole will be the south pole, and the current south pole will be located where the north pole is. If this happens, your compass which normally points north will instead point due south.
We’re Long Overdue
The geological record of the rocks shows that this has happened, on average, every 300,000 years. What aggravates scientists is that this pole switching phenomena is completely random with no discernible reasons for doing so. And we’re overdue for one – it’s been 780,000 years since the last magnetic polarity shift.
When it does happen, it won’t be a sudden, dramatic change. It will be a complex transition that may take thousands of years to complete. During that time, there will be a lot of confusion as multiple magnetic poles will spring up all over the earth. At that point, your compass would be pretty useless.
L., Wilson, Chen, J., J. C. & Tapley, B. D. Geophys. Res. Lett. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/grl.50552 (2013)