Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Magnetic Pole Shift May Close Airports

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 5:40


The recent changes at Tampa Bay International Airport regarding magnetic pole re-calibration and runway closure, chart alignment and runway number paint, could become a normal procedure for airports across the land. As an example nearby Peter O’Knight Airport is also scheduling similar changes at their facility.

It’s no surprise to many people that the Earth’s magnetic north pole has always wobbled over geological time, but what may be surprising is the speed at which the magnetic north pole has been recently moving and accelerating.

Although the magnetic north pole was first scientifically located in 1831, during 1904 it was discovered that the pole had begunmoving to the northeast at about 9 miles a year (15 kilometers). Scientists in 1989 discovered that the pole shift speed was accelerating and had increased to 35 miles a year (56 kilometers), and was heading directly towards Siberia.

At the current rate, about every 5 years a compass needle will be off by 1 degree.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen recently said, “Airport runway charting relies on accurate geomagnetic information. Aviation is charted using latitude and longitude and the magnetic poles. The Earth’s poles are changing constantly, and when they change more than three degrees, that can affect runway numbering.

While satellite GPS navigation has become a predominantly used method, navigation by way of compass heading is still essential in locations where line-of-sight to orbiting satellites is not possible.

As the Earth’s magnetic field continues to move, at some point the changes will effect all sorts of established systems such as charts, directions, documentation, software, and yes – more airports…


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