Earth's north magnetic pole could shift to Siberia in 50 years

The earth's north magnetic pole is drifting from North America at such a clip that it could end up in &to=' target=_blank>Siberia in the next 50 years, scientists said Thursday.

Despite accelerated movement over the past century, the possibility that the earth's fading magnetic field will collapse or that the magnetic poles will flip is remote. But the shift could mean that &to=' target=_blank>Alaska may no longer be able to see the high-altitude shimmering displays of colorful lights known as auroras.

Scientists have long known that magnetic poles migrate and in rare cases, swap places. But exactly why this happens is a mystery.

"This may be part of a normal oscillation and it will eventually migrate back toward Canada," said Joseph Stoner, a paleomagnetist at Oregon State University.

Results were presented Thursday at an American Geophysical Union meeting.

Previous studies have shown that the strength of the earth's protective magnetic shield has decreased 10 percent over the past 150 years. During the same period, the north magnetic pole wandered about 685 miles (1,102 kilometers) out into the Arctic, according to a new analysis by Stoner.

The rate of the magnetic pole's movement has increased in the last century compared to fairly steady movement in the previous four centuries, the Oregon researchers said.

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