Where is the North Pole, exactly? It depends
The “North Pole” can refer to three different places -- the Geographic North Pole, North Magnetic Pole and North Geomagnetic Pole. Two of these are constantly moving.
Santa must have a devil of a time when he travels back home.
Traveling to the North Pole may be a bit tricky because there are multiple North Poles, and two of them are constantly moving.
The Geographic North Pole
Also known as "True North," the Geographic North Pole is the northernmost point on the planet. Sitting in the middle of the Arctic Ocean at 90 degrees north, it is where the Earth spins on its axis.
Its geographic position allows it to point to the North Star, Polaris, which can help navigators find their way.
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Near the Geographic North Pole is the Barneo Ice Camp, a temporary research facility and tourist center that drifts on an Arctic ice sheet.
So, where is the north pole located?
Despite "Pole" being in its name, the Geographic North Pole is not located exactly at a magnetic pole of the planet.
The North Magnetic Pole
Unlike the Geographic North Pole, the North Magnetic Pole, also known as the Magnetic North Pole, is aligned with the planet’s magnetic field.
Earth is a giant magnet, as the motion of liquid metal in the Earth’s outer core generates a geomagnetic field that wraps around the planet, according to NOAA Senior Research Scientist Arnaud Chulliat.
Chulliat noted that the North Magnetic Pole, or Magnetic North Pole, is located where the geomagnetic field is exactly vertical in the Northern Hemisphere.
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The magnetic force at the North Magnetic Pole attracts the north needle of a compass, which is how compasses and GPS navigation systems orient themselves to the North Magnetic Pole.
Earth’s magnetic field, however, constantly changes. Because of this, the North Magnetic Pole's location also changes.
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Ever since it was discovered in northern Canada in 1831, the North Magnetic Pole has been moving north-northwest across the Canadian Arctic toward Russia. According to NOAA, a survey conducted in 2007 determined that it was moving at about 34 miles per year, but a recent survey showed that it has slowed down to about 28 miles per year.
Where is the Magnetic North Pole on a map? The North Magnetic Pole is currently located near 86.146 degrees north by 146.826 degrees east, according to the World Magnetic Model 2020.
The North Geomagnetic Pole
According to Chulliat, the planet’s magnetic field is complicated, and it is not an exact dipole – meaning that it does not have two perfectly opposite ends like your typical magnet. Because of this, the North and South Magnetic Poles are not on exact opposite ends of the Earth.
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By imagining a straight bar magnet cutting through the Earth’s core, however, scientists can approximate the North and South ends of our planet's giant magnet. Those locations are called the North and South Geomagnetic Poles.
According to the International Geomagnetic Reference Field model, the North Geomagnetic Pole is currently located near 80.8 degrees north by 72.7 degrees west, in Ellesmere Island, Canada.