I’m in the middle of reading this book, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Married (sequel to one of my favorites from college, Jennifer Johnsons is Sick of Being Single), and in one chapter, it mentions how north is constantly changing.

Being the chick lit that it is, it doesn’t delve into the specifics, just goes right into a metaphor about it.

But, given that I can’t sleep and I’m always questioning just about everything I read, I had to check: is north really changing?

Yes, says a 2009 story in National Geographic (well, more or less: the north that we know as directional north is not changing, but magnetic north — where compass needles point — is).

The magnetic north pole had moved little from the time scientists first located it in 1831. Then in 1904, the pole began shifting northeastward at a steady pace of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year.

In 1989 it sped up again, and in 2007 scientists confirmed that the pole is now galloping toward Siberia at 34 to 37 miles (55 to 60 kilometers) a year.

A rapidly shifting magnetic pole means that magnetic-field maps need to be updated more often to allow compass users to make the crucial adjustment from magnetic north to true North.

According to Discovery, this is fairly normal, though it has resulted in the need to renumber a bunch of airport runways.

About every five to 10 years, the shift in the planet’s magnetic pole builds up to the point where compass alignments and the direction of true north render some runway designations obsolete. The shift impacts some runways more than others, depending on which direction they face and when they were last numbered.

“Earth’s magnetic field is changing in time. And as far as we know, it has always been changing in time,” geophysicist Jeffrey Love, with the U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado, told Discovery News.

Two thoughts:

1) Back to that metaphor thing: maybe “your north” or whatever is always changing, too. You thought you knew where it was, and you were following the right path to get there. Then suddenly it shifted and you, just like many an airport, had to readjust. Maybe you got a little lost. But now you’re trying to follow it again, though you’re more aware that it will gradually change.

Just a good reminder (one that I really needed) that nothing in this life is constant.

2) How has this phenomenon not been made into a movie yet? I already see it: the magnetic changes will somehow result in the apocalypse, etc., etc.


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