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What causes magentic north?

The Earth, as we know, has a magnetic field. Like a bar magnet, it has a magnetic north pole and a magnetic south pole. But these do not coincide exactly with the Earth's geographic poles, which are the places on the Earth through which the axis (the imaginary line around which the Earth rotates) passes. Furthermore, the magnetic poles don't stay in one place; they are observed to wander, currently about 0.15 degree westward per year. The magnetic pole is not actually a point on the Earth's surface but instead is a region where the magnetic field lines are perpendicular to the surface of the Earth through which they pass. In 1970 the north magnetic pole region was found to located at approximately latitude 76.2 degrees N and longitude 101 degrees W, among the the arctic islands in northern Canada. This being said, "magnetic north", which is the direction in which the north-seeking pole of a compass points at any given location, is not in general directly toward the magnetic north pole! The Earth's magnetic field is much more complicated than that of a bar magnet; at a given location a compass will generally point in a direction some degrees east or west of "true north".

There is good evidence that the Earth's core is made up a liquid outer core surrounding a solid inner core. It is believed that the Earth's magnetic field is produced by electric currents in the liquid part of the core. So the Earth is, in essence, a sort of electromagnet.


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