Solar Storms and You!
Activity 8: Motion of the Magnetic Pole
The Magnetic North Pole has been charted over the past several hundred
years. The pole shifts an average of 15 kilometers per year. Navigation
by compass is especially difficult during a magnetic storm. Compass
bearings can shift by 10 degrees or more within the course of a few hours,
therefore, it is important to know the pole's present location.
The student will plot the latitude and the longitude involved in the movement
of the Magnetic North Pole over a period of time, predict its location
by the year 2000, and justify their reasoning.
Student page and Teacher's Answer
Ruler with mm units
Students will plot the latitude and the longitude for the given years using
the data table.
Students will connect the points in the given order to see the pattern
of movement in the Magnetic North Pole.
Students will measure the distances between the points, and using the time
between the years in the table, arrive at an average rate of movement (See
Students will plot and justify their choice of location based on their
results. Student's prediction and justification should be based on the
speed and the distance that the Magnetic North Pole has shifted in prior
To calculate the speed, use the following formula:
Speed = Tabulated Distance
Difference in Years
For the first interval between 1831 and 1904, the Magnetic North Pole
moved 50 kilometers. The difference in the years is 1904 - 1831 = 73 years,
so therefore the speed during this interval is:
Speed = 50 = 0.7 km/year
Students will understand that the Magnetic North Pole is not fixed at a
specific geographic location, but moves from year to year by a significant
Related Web Resources
The Canadian Search and Rescue site has a great Illustrated
Guide to the current and past locations of the North Magnetic Pole.
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This activity was developed by the NASA, IMAGE/POETRY
Teacher and Student Consortium.
For more information, and a list of other resources, visit