North pole movement speeding up ....

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North pole movement speeding up ....

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The pole, which, unlike the geographic North Pole, is in constant movement, has been within modern Canadian borders since at least the 1600s -- the time of Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton.

In 1904 it was measured just off the northern tip of Nunavut's King William Island by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and since then has moved in a north to northwesterly direction at a stately 10 kilometres per year.

But in 2001, scientists discovered that it was picking up the pace, suddenly charging ahead -- and toward the edge of Canadian territory -- at more than 40 kilometres per year.

This year, bad weather prevented Newitt from reaching the actual location of the pole, and he hasn't completed the analysis of his observations. But he got close enough to make two measurements, and says it appears the pole is farther away than expected, and moving even faster than before.

"We landed at two places at around 83 North, and it certainly appears the pole is probably closer to 84 North," he said. "That means that the pole is still continuing to accelerate."

If the pole continues its current course, it will shoot across the top of Earth and end up in Siberia by mid-century.

But the pole's movements are difficult to forecast, since its location depends on a terrestrial magnetic field that is produced by extremely complex forces deep inside Earth. Those forces, at their simplest, drive a churning mass of molten iron that rises and falls on convective currents more than 3,000 kilometres below the planet's surface. The movement of that iron conducts and produces the magnetic field, whose poles are located fairly close, although still often thousands of kilometres away from, the geographic poles.

Curiously, the speed with which the pole moves could be related to dramatic events like the massive earthquake that caused last December's devastating tsunami. That quake was big enough to alter the shape of Earth and jar the planet into a slightly different axis of rotation. It also had enough power to jolt the molten iron that powers the magnetic field, and could be partly responsible for magnetic "jerks" that are propelling the magnetic North Pole, Newitt said.

Scientists have also been intrigued by a weakening in the pole's intensity: It has lost 10 per cent of its force in the past few centuries. That could be a sign that the poles are preparing to reverse, a phenomenon that has occurred many times in Earth's distant history, said University of Alberta geophysics professor Moritz Heimpel.
By netchicken: posted on 13-6-2005

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