GPS and Liquid Iron — North Pole on the Move

January 11, 2019

(Illustration above: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman,’ found here).

Gray-overcast and pale this Friday afternoon here on California’s north coast, a scene made more sober by a way-gorgeous morning of bright sunshine and warmth — I took Cowboy and Kuru to the dunes in Samoa, and they loved it, running too and fro, while I experienced a nice work-out keeping up with them.
Supposedly, maybe sunshine again tomorrow and Sunday, (according to WunderBlog‘s weather thingie), but we’ll just have to wait and see…

Yet nowadays, sight with a compass might be getting complicated — apparently, earth’s magnetic field is being strange — via Nature from last Wednesday:

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.

Read the whole piece to fully understand the science of it all — like it’s liquid churning in Earth’s core that generates most of the magnetic field, and this liquid shifts around, but reportedly the action is getting odd:

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.

And this bit on the situation from today’s ScienceAlert:

There is debate over whether such events foreshadow a complete reversal, or a long-period weakening of the entire field.
In short, nobody is really all that sure what’s going on or how to predict these deviations.
And some of those shifts have a bigger impact than others.
“The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors,” geomagnetist Arnaud Chulliat from the University of Colorado Boulder told Witze.
Researchers are feeding in several years of data to provide a short term fix to get us through 2019, with the usual update still planned for the end of the year.
Whether these kinds of fixes are going to become a regular event, or the five year lifespan of each version of the model needs a rethink, time will tell.
Geologists are working hard to figure out what kinds of underground weather events are causing these blips, and what it means for the future.
One thing is for certain – we’re woefully unprepared if the field does anything too crazy.

Addendum to the expanding list of serious subjects.screaming-out right-into our collective faces…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.