"Things are acting very strangely at high latitude."
February 12, 2019 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Magnetic north was formally redesignated ahead of schedule. Here's what that means. The foundation of many navigation systems, the World Magnetic Model finally got a much-needed update with the end of the U.S. government shutdown. (National Geographic). The geomagnetic poles "wander," which isn't news (National Centers for Environmental Information), but recently it was recognized that Earth’s northern magnetic pole is moving quickly away from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia, which has forced NCEI’s scientists to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM) mid-cycle (NCEI). If you want to see how declination has changed historically, NCEI has a neat online map (may not render properly in all browsers).
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're looking for examples of how this impacts day-to-day life, NCEI has this summary, from the article on the WMM update:
The military uses the WMM for undersea and aircraft navigation, parachute deployment, and more. Other governmental organizations, such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Forest Service, and many more use this technology for surveying and mapping, satellite/antenna tracking, and air traffic management.

Smartphone and consumer electronics companies also rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services.

Airport runways are perhaps the most visible example of a navigation aid updated to match shifts in Earth’s magnetic field. Airports around the country use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:31 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I heard about this, and I wonder how it affects the Suneye that I use at work. It has a GPS and compass and can find true North (which is important for my work, since production estimates for solar arrays are based in part on how far the azimuth of the array varies from true South) but it's definitely not smart enough to update automatically. I wonder if it will even be be possible to update it manually.

I should go look up what the new declination is for my area.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:46 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Eh, it's only shifted like a tenth of a degree. That's well under the error range for my Suneye's compass. Don't worry everyone, your production estimates are safe.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:52 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


I mean, Glenn Gould called it “The Idea of North.”

But in all seriousness, this is really interesting. Thanks!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


####################
#### Patch 14.4 ####
####################
-Magnetic north adjusted toward Siberia
-Santa Claus removed pending rebalance
-Gaily striped "barbershop"-style pole replaced with tapering obsidian spire
-Albedo sharply reduced; should cut down on excessive glare
-Polar bears buffed, range greatly expanded, in preparation for "Take Righteous Vengeance Upon Mankind" limited time event

posted by Iridic at 1:57 PM on February 12 [43 favorites]


So that's what Magneto's been up to lately.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:57 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I like that the NCEI interactive map uses Mercator. Because this is one of the few cases where Mercator is actually justified!
posted by tobascodagama at 2:13 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Ha, I just came here to complain if there was ever a map calling out for a polar projection, it'd be this one. Mercator is super-bizarre in that it makes the northern latitudes look just as wide as the southern ones. Transverse Mercator would work a lot better, as a start.
posted by Nelson at 2:34 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]




Great links but I’m afraid a more likely explanation is that Rupes Nigra is adrift again.
posted by not_the_water at 3:06 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Ha, I just came here to complain if there was ever a map calling out for a polar projection, it'd be this one.

Click the "Arctic" tab along the right edge of the window.
posted by The Tensor at 3:11 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I had a temp job in 2004 transcribing microcassettes from a guy who was writing a book as told to him by Alishara, an entity who existed in the 17th dimension. He would turn the recorder on, sit in this gigantic amethyst geode, and channel her (?). She told him that in 2012, the Earth's polarity would shift and south would be north and north would be south. I thought he was crazy; apparently Alishara was just wrong on the timeline.

PS, Alishara also told him, on September 10th, 2001, to give up his shift the next day as a pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston and go on a crystal hunting trip in Brazil instead.
posted by feistycakes at 3:44 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]




We're sure this isn't just guerilla marketing for the final season of Game of Thrones?

"The north is wandering, prepare yourself."
posted by Riki tiki at 4:48 PM on February 12


Wait, wait, this guy had an amethyst geode large enough to serve as a throne? Or I guess maybe a sort of very uncomfortable papasan? Way to bury the lede, there. The Museum of Science in Boston has an amethyst geode perhaps half that size, and I consider it one of their chiefest treasures.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:50 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Checking... so true north was equal to magnetic north in my area in 1979. Seems about right to me and it's time for the magnetic pole to move back.
posted by zompist at 5:00 PM on February 12


I had a temp job in 2004 transcribing microcassettes from a guy who was writing a book as told to him by Alishara, an entity who existed in the 17th dimension.

If you're writing a novel I love your hook.
posted by traveler_ at 5:06 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


If you want to see how declination has changed historically, NCEI has a neat online map.

I decline.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:06 PM on February 12


PS, Alishara also told him, on September 10th, 2001, to give up his shift the next day as a pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston and go on a crystal hunting trip in Brazil instead.

So–don't keep us in suspense!–did he give up his shift and go on a crystal hunting trip instead (and, if he did, is that where he scored the gigantic amethyst geode)? Or did he just go to work for another boring day in the air?
posted by tenderly at 6:43 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


This article from 1987 describes how minute changes in earth's rotation can trigger disruptions in the earth's molten core geodynamo, the source of our magnetic field. The core eventually matches the crust's speed and the geodynamo gets restored, with a 50/50 chance of being either north or south. Their article was based on the idea that an asteroid impact would set off a nuclear winter scenario that would shift mass from the equator to the poles as ice caps grew, causing the earth's crust and mantle to speed up while the core initially kept rotating at the previous speed. That shear causes turbulence in the molten iron, which disrupts the geodynamo. At the end of the article they surmise the same could happen with global warming, with the crust slowing down instead, but still causing the same kind of shear in the core. I'm pretty sure that's what's happening today.
posted by M-x shell at 11:15 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I have seen geode chairs and have sat in one. I don't know about now but in the southwest it was common to see very large geodes for sale or on display at rock/crystal shops.

I did not hear any instructions demanding dictation for a book, and the geode chair was about as uncomfortable and pokey as you might imagine.
posted by loquacious at 2:08 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


You don't sit in a geode chair for comfort, you sit in it for access to higher truths, important forecasts, and new directions for your life.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


This article from 1987 describes how minute changes in earth's rotation can trigger disruptions in the earth's molten core geodynamo, the source of our magnetic field.

Does it also come with a design for a drillship made of unobtanium that we can use to plant nuclear bombs at strategic points around the core and detonate them to restore the geodynamo?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:12 AM on February 13


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