North Pole

What best describes Earths North magnetic pole?


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2015-05-19 17:37:20
2015-05-19 17:37:20

Your expression, 'earth's north magnetic pole' is, at best, confusing. Are you referring to 'Magnetic North', which is a location and not the polarity of that location? Or are you referring to the magnetic polarity of this location, which is a south pole?

If the former, then a compass indicates the direction of Magnetic North. If the latter, then earth's north magnetic pole is located at Magnetic South. In other words, a compass needle points to Magnetic North because it is attracted by its south magnetic polarity.

Just to expand somewhat on this answer... 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South' are so-named to differentiate their locations from 'True North' and 'True South'. In other words, 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South' are locationsand not magnetic polarities. In fact, the magnetic polarity of True North is a south pole, and the magnetic polarity of True South is a north pole. I would also argue that the terms 'Magnetic North (or South) Pole' is confusing, because the location is not really a 'pole' in either the geographic or magnetic sense. By calling Magnetic North, a 'pole' causes confusion, making some students confuse their location ('Magnetic North') with their polarity ('south')!

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The terms, 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South', are used to differentiate between their locations and those of 'True North' and 'True South'. 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South', are places and have nothing whatsoever to do with the magnetic polarities associated with these places. The magnetic polarity at Magnetic North is a south pole, and the magnetic polarity at Magnetic South is a north pole. This is why the earth's magnetic field leave from Magnetic South and enter at Magnetic North -the directionof the field being the direction in which a compass needle will point.

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Our planet behaves as though a giant bar magnet is buried deep within the earth, and lying slightly out of alignment with the earth's axis of rotation. The points where this imaginary bar magnet's magnetic field lies perpendicular to the earth are named Magnetic North and Magnetic South respectively. These points do not coincide with the earth's geographic poles, which are called True North and True South respectively. It's very important to understand that 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South' describe locations, and have nothing whatsoever to do with their magnetic polarities. In fact, these locations are not fixed, but constantly move relative to True North and True South, and the locations must be taken into consideration for the purpose of navigation.A freely-suspended magnet (or a compass needle) will align itself with the earth's magnetic field and will always come to rest pointing in a Magnetic North - Magnetic South direction. Because of this, one end of the magnet was originally named its 'North-Seeking Pole', while the other end was named its 'South-Seeking Pole'. Over time, we have dropped the word 'seeking' from these expressions, and now call the ends of a magnet (or compass needle) its 'north pole' and its 'south pole' which, by common consent, are used to identify the magnetic polarities of a magnet. Because 'unlike poles attract', this means that the magnetic polarity of Magnetic North (i.e. the location) must be a south pole, and the magnetic polarity of Magnetic South must be a north pole.To summarise, the terms 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South' are locations so-named to differentiate them from 'True North' and 'True South' for the purpose of navigation. Because the north pole of a magnet or compass needle is attracted towards Magnetic North, that location's magnetic polarity is south. And, of course, the magnetic polarity of Magnetic South location is north.From geological records obtained from magnetized rock strata and other natural materials, it is well-known that the magnetic poles have actually "flipped over" several times during the many aeons of the earth's long history (although not during man's existence). Should this do so again in the future, it will have no affect whatsoever on the locations or on naming of 'Magnetic North' and 'Magnetic South', although their magnetic polarities will, of course, reverse!For more information see the Related links shown below.

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Fluctuations in the magnetic field cause the Magnetic North Pole to constantly move in an irregular path around its average position. The position of where the Magnetic North Pole is given each year is actually an AVERAGE position, as the Magnetic Pole can move around up to 80 Km or more if the magnetic field is disturbed. One of the best links to predict where the North Magnetic Pole MAY be is the Woods Hole Marine Magnetism Group link attached.

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