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Two huge blobs in Earth’s mantle are fighting it out over our magnetic pole

18 May 2020, 13:00 UTC
Two huge blobs in Earth’s mantle are fighting it out over our magnetic pole
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If you have a very sensitive compass, a predilection for graphing, and a lot of patience, you may have noticed that the Earth's magnetic pole has been hightailing it toward Siberia recently. It wanders all the time, actually, but in 1990 suddenly accelerated rapidly toward Siberia. A few fringe folks (as they are wont to do) have predicted doom and gloom over this, but in fact it's a natural and geologically common event… and scientists now think they know why.

The Earth is like a giant bar magnet, with a donut-shaped field that has a north and south magnetic pole (not to be confused with Earth's geographic poles, where its spin axis intersects the surface in the Arctic and Antarctic). The field is generated deep inside the Earth, in the outer core. The inner core is solid iron, but the outer core, where pressures are lower, is liquid metal, so the iron flows.

The Earth’s overall magnetic field is similar to a bar magnet, with a north and south pole (not to be confused with the geographic poles). Credit: Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh via NASA

When it flows it generates an electric current. The Earth's rotation sweeps this ...

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