Close Window
Shifting Magnetic North Pole Prompts Aviation Updates March 11, 2011
Arctic melting
While the position of the Magnetic North Pole was first determined in 1833, scientists have been able to estimate its position back to about 1600.
Earth’s Magnetic North Pole is shifting from its current location in northern Canada at a faster rate than has ever before been observed.

The movement could have significant impact for both aircraft navigation and some types of migratory wildlife in the decades ahead, experts warn.

Hundreds of miles south of the geographic North Pole, the location of the Magnetic North Pole was first determined in 1833.

It seemed to barely move until about 1904, when its position began to track northeastward about nine miles per year.

The speed began to increase significantly in a northwesterly direction about 1998, and now averages about 37 miles each year.

This means the pole will be located in northern Russia later this century if the movement and speed don’t change.

Air transportation uses magnetic compass directions for navigation, meaning airports are having to rename their runways as the shift continues.

Wildlife that can sense Earth’s magnetic field to migrate may also become affected by the change.

Graphic: EarthBrowser-Earthweek