Mar 032011

Our eight-year-old daughter, Hattie, has been conducting a science experiment where she has been monitoring the direction of earth’s magnetic north pole. The expected outcome of the experiment was that the direction would not change over the course of several weeks.

To conduct this experiment, she taped a laminated outline of her compass onto an immovable stone table in our yard. Before she taped it in place, she positioned the outline so that her compass needle lined up with a mark on the paper indicating magnetic north.

Several times each day, she carefully places her compass in the fixed outline and takes measurements of where her compass needle points. Surprisingly, she has obtained measurements which seem to indicate that magnetic north has been deviating very significantly (up to ~10 degrees) on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, this is alarming if true, so we are going to monitor her experiment much more closely over the days to come. However, Hattie is an extraordinarily meticulous child, so we take her findings seriously.

A quick Internet search returns apparent testimony from others who claim to have observed similar phenomena recently.

Bob and Doc I (or anyone else of course),

I know things are going to get exciting today but I have a question sorta in a different direction. You may have noticed from previous posts (kinda infrequent, I know) that I’m a NAVAID tech. I had a most interesting event occur last Friday and wonder what you think about it.

One of my VOR sites was being orbited by Flight Check just about the time that the Geo storm started on Friday. F/C took me off the air, that is they NOTAM’ed my VOR out of service because all of the radials were 3 degrees off. You don’t want airplanes using your site when it’s that far off.

Normally, internal monitoring by the VOR itself will shut the facility down when it goes 1 deg off on ANY radial. 16 small antennas around the site’s counterpoise constantly monitor the signnal. The site itself saw no problems, did NOT shut down, and when we checked it, everything was fine. Apparently the radial “bending” was only in space, not at the site.

Three days later a F/C aircraft flew another orbit and all the radials were … perfect.

What could the geo storm have done to us?

I had a similar event happen about 8 months ago at another site, in Southern Indiana, where only the radials east and south of the site “changed” by up to 5 degrees, then went back to normal a few days later. This time is was several commercial aircraft who reported the radial angles off, compared to GPS, and by the time Flight Check got there everything was back to normal.

At issue is whether we ought to be taking sites off the air during a Geo storm. There’s a lot of expense involved in having special aircraft come down to put us back on the air, plus the time that a NAVAID is down and unavailable.

Some of us are already pushing these questions “upstream” but I was wondering what you guys think, since I HIGHLY value your knowledge of solar and geo mag things.



  14 Responses to “Earth’s magnetic north fluctuating daily?”

  1. Hello, I’ve been monitoring the magnetic north pole since mid November 2010 and can confirm that your daughter Hattie is correct in her observations. The last movement I observed was on 2nd July 2011 late afternoon in a few hours it moved from its last ”stable” position 6 degrees west where it has remained. Back in Nov. 2010 it was moving almost daily east and west of its ”stable” position anywhere from 1 to 4 degrees. When viewed from above the mag. pole movement will be ‘elliptcal’ hence its movement east/west . Further noticeable movements occured in Jan. Mar. May and July 2011 . A point to note is that reading errors due to parallax are possible so be consistant when viewing/making readings. Well done Hattie ; hope you have maintained your observations . For your reference I live on the south coast of the UK. my kind regards to you both, Kevin. 22/08/11

    • Hi, Kevin. We verified Hattie’s results and our measurements were very similar to yours, but I’ve been too busy to report them. Hattie’s measurements were off a little, probably due to parallax as you warn, but there did appear to be day-to-day variation within the range you stated.

      I have wanted to create an Android or iPad app to measure the magnetic field over the course of days using the devices’ built-in compasses, but I simply don’t have the time right now.

      • Hello Van, just to keep you updated with my latest observation ; on the 30th August 2011 around 3pm there was another movement, this time six degrees east of last ‘stable’ position ; a return to its last position. The change that I’ve noted is that previous east/west movements have been stepped but now they occur in a single rapid movement. It would be interesting to know ,but its not possible for us to measure, the extent of the north/south movement ,anyway goodbye until my next update probably early November regards Kevin.

  2. Hello Van, a further update sooner than expected ; sometime between 8pm and 12pm 1st of October, there was another magnetic north pole movement, this time 6 degrees west of its last stable position. Its last four movements have all been 6 degrees either way. This latest movement has a time interval of just 32 days; other intervals have normally taken around 6 to 8 weeks to occur. I’ll try to keep you posted of any further movements.

  3. Hello Van, back again with more observations. October 19th movement 1 degree east, then on 24th October there was a further movement east of 6 degrees. That is a total movement of 7 degrees in 23 days from its last 6 degree movement.
    The latest drift of 6 degrees took place again very quickly sometime between 5.30pm and 8pm local UK time.

  4. Hello Van, more mag. n/p updates. November 2nd check at 9am showed a 1 degree move east, next day reset marker to new ‘stable’ position, then on November 9th sometime between 9pm and midnight there was a 5 degree movement back westward. The time gap between the larger moves is down again; 32 to 23 to now 16 days, perhaps the next move will be in 9 or 10 days time ? Your continuing interest is gratifying and thankyou for your open website, Kevin.

  5. Hello Van, another mag. n/pole update, this time 17 days from last post. Sometime between 8pm and 11pm on 26th November there was a movement of 6 degrees east from the reset ‘stable’ position of the 9th November.

  6. Hello Van, just to update you that there have been no further magnetic pole movements since 26th Nov. 2011. Last year,2011, there were gaps of two months or there abouts between movements so who knows it may start to move again in the near future.

  7. Hello Van,
    it seems the magnetic north pole has rested long enough. There was a 6 degree movement west of its last stable position that I reset my compass to, this happened 27th January 2012 sometime between 8pm and 11.50pm. Time interval from last movement is 2 months 1 day.

  8. Hello again Van, my latest observations for magnetic north pole movements are ; last two weeks of February there were a few one degree moves east then back again west but today the 23rd March there was the expected six degree movement east.
    Goodbye for now, Kevin.

  9. Hello Van, another mag. n/pole move occurred 9th May 2012. This time only 3 degrees west of its last stable position. This brings the mag. n/ pole back to its 2010 position.

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