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magnetic pole

magnetic pole, the two nearly opposite ends of the planet where the earth's magnetic intensity is the greatest, as the north and south magnetic poles. For the magnetic north, it is the direction from any point on the earth's surface linking the horizontal component of the magnetic lines of force with the observer and north magnetic pole; it is similar for magnetic south. The north magnetic pole, first located (1831) by British explorer Sir James C. Ross, is now about 78°N and 104°W in the Queen Elizabeth Islands of northern Canada. The south magnetic pole, reached (1909) by Australian geologists Sir T. W. E. David and Sir Douglas Mawson, is now about 66°S and 139°E on the Adélie Coast of Antarctica. The magnetic poles are not fixed but follow circular paths with diameters of about 100 miles (160 km). Studies of paleomagnetism also indicate that the earth's magnetic field has reversed its polarity many times in the geologic past. The best hypothesis to date for the origin of terrestrial magnetism is the self-exciting dynamo theory, where the earth's magnetic field is generated by the interaction of motion and electrical currents in the earth's liquid outer core.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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