Researchers have found that the magnetic north pole of the Earth is rapidly drifting away from its current position in arctic Canada towards Russia.
What is Magnetic North Pole?
- The Earth has two types of poles – the Geographic Poles and the Magnetic Poles.
- The Geographic Poles are fixed and are defined by the earth’s rotation on its axis.
- Earth acts like a giant magnet. Just like a bar magnet, it has a North and a South Pole.
- The origin of this magnetism is in the Earth’s Outer Core.
- The liquid outer core with the presence of Iron, Nickel and other materials is in a constant flux.
- This rotation of liquid Iron causes magnetism and hence the magnetic poles are not static and they shift their positions over many years of time.
- The poles may also interchange their positions. The last time such thing happened was 780,000 years ago.
Why the Concern of Magnetic Momentum?
- The current position of the magnetic North Pole is in the Canadian Arctic which was discovered in 1831 by Sir James Clark Ross.
- The recent research has found that the pace of movement of the poles has hastened and is fast approaching Russia.
- It 14-15 km per year in the 90s but now it is 55 km per year.
- This was updated in the World Magnetic Model (WMM). Generally, the model is updated every five years. But, this time it was updated a year earlier considering the consequences of this shift.
Why Magnetic North Pole Changing the Speed?
- It is not yet clear why the sudden change in the speed of drift.
- The outer core which propels the drift is not clearly known. How the movement of the liquid iron and other metals occur and why.
- The information so far available is only through indirect sources and computer modeling.
What are the Consequences of North Pole Drifting?
- The consequences are manifold.
- Most of the modern technologies like positioning systems for navigation, avionic instruments etc are aligned to the Magnetic Poles. With shifting North Pole, navigation becomes difficult.
- Also, modern weapon systems with precise delivery mechanisms are aligned to the magnetic north pole. The drift may impact their effectiveness.
- Now with the update of WMM, modern digital compasses have to be recalibrated to the new positions of the magnetic north pole.
How it Impacts the India
- The Indian weapons systems are fast being upgraded to precision weapons using positioning systems. Already, the NAVIC positioning system is put into service for the same.
- Based on the updates of the WMM, all these systems must be re-calibrated immediately.
- Also, advisories must be brought out by the concerned authorities for private firms to update the many devices available in the market that depend on Earth’s magnetism.
Short Notes on Earth’s Magnetism
- The magnetic field of the Earth extends from the interiors of the Earth to the outer space. It is also known as Geomagnetic Field.
- The region of the extent magnetic field is known as Magnetosphere.
- The magnetic dipole is tilted at an angle of 11 degrees to that of the Earth’ rotation.
- The magnetosphere protects the earth from the charged solar particles which have the potential to rip off the planet’s upper atmosphere.
- The aurora that we commonly see in the North Pole is due to the interaction of earth’s magnetic field with the charged particles from solar winds.
- When such charged particles are captured by the magnetic field of earth, a temporary belts are created known as Van Allen Radiation Belts. By capturing the particles, the magnetic fields protect the earth’s atmosphere.
- A third transient belt was reported by NASA in 2013 which was short-lived.
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The magnetic field of the earth and the belts are very important for life on earth. Without which, the power solar winds would have stripped of the upper atmosphere eventually leaking the essential gases from earth into the atmosphere just like on Mars.