Shift of Earth's magnetic North Pole affects Florida airport
Tampa International Airport's new runway designations, a result of a shift of Earth’s magnetic North Pole, take effect Thursday.
January 12th, 2011
07:34 PM ET

Shift of Earth's magnetic North Pole affects Florida airport

A runway at Florida's Tampa International Airport is scheduled to reopen Thursday with new numbers and signage to account for the gradual shift of the Earth's magnetic North Pole.

Runway 18R/36L, which runs north-south, has been closed since January 3 for numeric redesignation of the compass headings at each end of the runway and to change taxiway signage to account for the one-degree shift.

It will reopen tomorrow as 19R/1L, indicating its alignment along compass headings, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Every five years, the FAA reevaluates shifts in the poles - its magnetic variation - and makes changes to runways and flight procedures as needed, Bergen said.

The FAA also publishes new aeronautical charts for pilots every 56 days, and with the next one due on Thursday, it made sense to make the changes at Tampa International Airport effective the same day, she said.

"The Earth's magnetic fields are constantly changing," she said. "It’s a very dynamic system so we make these changes effective every 56 days."

Redesignation of runway compass headings is a common practice that occurs whenever the Earth's magentic fields change, she said. It happened last year at Palm Beach International Airport and is scheduled to happen at the Tampa-Clearwater International Airport later in 2011, she said.

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Filed under: Air travel • Florida • Travel
soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    36L/18R will be renamed 1L/19R. The story stated it will be 19L/1R, but that is a different runway, and 2,400 feet shorter.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • egrinberg

      Thank you for pointing out! It has been corrected.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moron

      Later in 2010?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest

      Also, in the sense of nomenclature, the difference between runways 36L/18R and 19L/1R is 10 degrees. Saying that this change is due to a one-degree shift in magnetic variation is misleading.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • waxinjaxin

      Not sure why this is news in the first place. Magnetic variation changes constantly and this is part of an ongoing process at every airport in the world. There's nothing magic about this happening at TPA.

      Those who assert that the change required would be 10 degrees instead of 1 are incorrect. The runway numbers are rounded to the nearest 10 degrees magnetic course, then the zero is dropped. So, if the previous runway course was 004 degrees, it would have a number of 36. When variation changes that heading to 005, it gets rounded up and becomes runway 01.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • james in tn

      more of the quality of journalism we have come to expect of cnn. thanks

      January 13, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Darthlawsuit

      Wow a report on something that is actually happening. Its a new years miracle!

      It will be strange when the USA becomes the southern hemisphere. The Australians will be at the top of the world D:

      January 13, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      This is hardly newsworthy. As pointed out previously the earth's magnetic field is constantly changing. The post addressing the rounding off is quite correct.. As we all know , there are hundreds of airports, and periodically there will be runway designation changes. Again, not news.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • ...

      Yes, this will all happen "later in 2010". And, of course, much MUCH later – say, 1980 – CNN will become a world leader in news. Tragically, they will lose all of their prestige one day when suddenly no reporters are left with an understanding of the english language, or how numbers work.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      um this story is 2 weeks old.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • MandoZink

      According to runway naming conventions, the east runway (shorter one) would be renamed 19L-1R, while the west runway (longer one) would be renamed 19R-1L. As they are parallel, a pilot on approach from the north would see 19L and 19R, both running basically north-south.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • gums32

      Ok I need help on this one. I fly routinely on Microsoft Flight Simulator will Microsoft send out a patch for the magnetic change of the worlds runways? This could effect my approach patterns especially when I am told by ATC to perform a visual landing.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • cam

      So.... if the location of the north pole changes does that mean that santa and the elves have to move too?

      January 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      @ cam:

      Everyone knows that Santa's village floats on a magnetic cloud which automatically adjusts to the shifting of the north pole. Sheesh!

      Great game against Oregon, by the way.

      January 16, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. steve

    It IS her fault!

    January 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Supercongrats

    congrats to the newly independent nation of as was assisted by the always generous chairman Cheny. Liberty is a lottery at its finest. Sarah who ? Excellent.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Please keep your liberal ramblings to yourself.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |

    I wonder how long till the poles flip? i think it's over due now or time to flip soon.. isn't it evey 10k years or so that it happens?

    January 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      2012 is year for shift and change

      January 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jonathan

      obviously a noob comment. the last one occurred 780,000 years ago. look up basic science before you blurt out something stupid

      January 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      jonathan – I think you need to lookup basic science. It couldn't be that long ago – the Earth is only 6,000 years old 😉

      January 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mutt

      Bill, the Earth is older than 6000 years. It's humankind that has only been around for approximately 6000 years.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • levend

      There is plenty of evidence that show humans were around alot more than 6000 years.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      i'm pretty sure bill was being sarcastic....

      January 13, 2011 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Customer187

      What date will our toilets all start swirling in the opposite direction?

      January 13, 2011 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      The Earth's poles have flipped periodically at 200,000 years in the relatively recent history recorded in geological records. However, the poles have not flipped in almost 800,000 years. So for some it may be thought of as overdue. However, that is assuming it is a periodic system and not a chaotic system which can have long durations of periodic behavior.

      The Earth's magnetic field also has lowered in intensity the past 100 years. Especially so the past 25 years. Geological records indicate lasting drastic climate shifts have not coincided with the flipping of the magnetic field. If lowering in intensity of the magnetic field and more movement of the poles is an indication it is about to flip, then it may indeed be about to flip.

      What we do know is that it is the main driver in protecting the Earth from cosmic rays and deflecting much of it from hitting Earth. Coincidentally, it is theorized that greenhouse gas emissions affect Earth's climate because they also shield the Earth from cosmic rays. Which is in contrast to the geological record of the magnetic field.

      January 13, 2011 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • ToiletExpert

      Actually, the toilets swirl the same direction in the north and south hemisphere. The force of the flush jet direction is much more powerful than the hemispheric effect. They are built the same way in both hemispheres so they flush the same. Wow, don't you feel like you life has been enriched by my amazing wisdom?

      January 13, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • mattski

      OMG the world is older than 6000 years?!? I think Bill's post was pretty much tongue in cheek, don't you Mutt?

      January 13, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran


      The Earth is approx. 4.5 Billion years old, according to mainstream science. Sorry, "Flat-Earthers," the only way the Earth could be 6000 "years" old, as some Bible experts have said, is if 1 "year" in this Bible calculation = 750,000 actual years!

      Also, according to the geological record, the Earth experiences a magnetic pole shift approx. every 26,000 years (that's actual years, not Bible years).

      Don't just Google information. There's all kinds of misinformation out there (i.e., the "Mis-Information Age"). Go to government and university web sites to find credible science information. If you want to be taken credibly in your blog posts, you should first make sure your information is correct. Otherwise, you are just adding to the problem of misinformation, in addition to looking foolish.

      Have a nice day. 🙂

      January 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Al Bore

      Change is on-going, as Jonathan mentioned.

      Let's put a Global Warming-type spin on this! All the electro-magnetic pollution that man has put into the magnetosphere must be causing the fluctuation. Therefore we must reduce and control our use of cell phones, computers and telecommunications. Essentially create credits so that we can reduce the effect of our profligate ways on mother earth.

      I could make a hundred million dollars on this, just like my buddy, Al Gore...

      January 13, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Cold War Vetern: If by "shift", you mean, "flip", it is not every 26,000 years. I was incorrect in my memory too, so we're both a bit at fault. It is not every 200,000 years as I was recalling, but every 300,000 years that it was periodic. And it hasn't occurred in almost 800,000 years. This information is readily available in scientific journals and not just googled. However, here is something from the National Geographic which you may believe.

      It's an interesting subject because it happens so infrequently and seems like we might see it flip within the next 100 years.

      Of course, if you did mean "shift", it constantly shifts, but has only recently increased the amount it's been shifting each year.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      The 26k years you are thinking of is probably the length of the cyclic shift of Earth's rotational axis as it aligns to the plane of the ecliptic. The Earth "wobbles", likely due to an ancient collision (as in the one that produced our moon).

      January 16, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Cesar

    The shift of the Earth's magnatic North Pole is Sarah Palin's fault. She must have said something. I hold her responsible!

    January 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • steveo2504

      Blame Bush. LOL

      January 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ardath

      Soon she'll be able to see the South Pole from her house!

      January 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • cwrighta70

      Palin must have put crosshairs on the poles of a map??

      January 13, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Cesar

    @RuffNutt: I don't know how long it will take the poles to flip, but you have flipped since December.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • funny

      hahahahah hilarious:)

      January 13, 2011 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. banasy


    Once again the retarded rhetoric of the masses comes out to blame politicians for a natural oooooooh. How tiring for these people that have nothing new to say.

    Except @Cesar: I suspect he is being just a wee bit sarcastic, teehee. Cesar is a whole lot more savvy than most of you give him credit for...don't forget I told you so! Cesar rocks!

    January 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    @banasy: Do you ever get criticized from your inner circle: family, friends, etc, for spending too much time on the blogg? I seem to sometimes. How are things @ the library? Bet its big and modernized.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnDorian

      Why don't you two get a room.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    lol yea he does! hail cesar! i cannot wait to go to work tomorrow tho cuz i told my boss a fdw weeks ago the earth was off its axis when the lions began to win a few games lmao

    January 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cecil

    Anyone notice the other error in the last paragraph regarding the year?

    January 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cookie Monster

      did anyone notice they are now down playing this story? the other day it was a rare occurrence that the pole shifted so hard or something to that nature and that the pole has been moving closer to russia at 40 miles per year.. meaning we are having a pole shift and they are down playing it

      January 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Euclidiana

      IIt's a pole shift that's sending us back in time!! OH NO WE ARE DOOMED!!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. banasy

    It's not TOO big, because it's only a branch of a much larger system. We are pretty modernized however!
    And yes, I get criticized for blogging a bit, but I could say the same for some of the stuff THEY do, so it's all good! 🙂

    January 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jaxboy3436

    the degree change is actually 10 degrees, runways drop the last digit

    January 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zachary Colescott

      While it is true that runways drop the last digit, just because a Runway is labeled 19 does not mean that it is exactly aligned at 190 degrees. Some above tried to point out that a 1 degree change couldn't cause this, but rather 10 degree shifts do...wrong. Runway 19 can indicate a magnetic alignment of 185 degrees to 194 degrees, so yes, little 1 degree increments can cause this over time.

      However, I do agree...this really isn't news. It's happening constantly, and no one usually notices because it is so seamless. There are more important issues within the aviation industry that I'd rather the general public knew about, like the fact that any time you board a regional airline flight, chances are very good that you make more than the flight crew does...combined. Many friends at regional airlines make less than $18,000 a year after spending several times that to obtain the job in the first place.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. srdev

    So these morons at Tampa have to close the runway and take 10+ days to paint new numbers at the end and change the signs?

    January 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Some Dude

      It is Florida. And things like numbers and counting just aren't strong suits there. . .

      January 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      Its not just repainting the numbers on the runway. Jeppesen has to issue an updated chart that has to be on every aircraft or their charts are wrong and don't reflect actual configurations. So many people aviation is just so simple. So much behind the scenes passengers don't even know what it takes to make it all happen...and most take it for granted that its so safe and easy now.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Colin in Florida

      They are doing other maintenance on the runway at the same time, that's what's taking the extra time.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
    • SomeChick

      SomeDude, the bulk of Floridans come from other states... New York, Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, etc. ... so what exactly are you trying to imply?

      January 13, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • SomeChick


      January 13, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Qwerty

      He is implying that people from other states are morons.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • unexplained

      In 10 days, they could have kept the designation the same, and dug up and repaved the runway to match.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    Detroit WON? (I don't follow the Lions) is H*ll starting to freeze over? Lol

    January 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    "i wonder if some brainless idiot is gona blame Sarah Palin forthis natural occurance?".....

    Are you trying to set up a straw man? That's a rhetorical trick the right likes to use. Nixon was an expert at it. That's how he got the nickname "Tricky Dick."

    January 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnDorian

      Heh! He said "straw man" and "Tricky Dick" in the same paragraph. Win!

      Are you seriously trying to have an intelligent, well thought out discussion in the CNN news blogs?

      My response to all this? "Hmmm, I didn't know they had to renumber runways occasionally to take into account the periodic shifting of magnetic North. Also, why am I just now hearing about this even though it's apparently a common practice? Why has the reporter focused on Florida, and not talked about other runways across the nation or world? Does this happen mostly in Florida, giving credence to the Burmuda Triangle mysteries? Is this further evidence of a magnetic pole flip that TLC keeps going on about? Also, in what other ways will the flipping of magnetic North affect our postmodern lives? Are we even living in "postmodern" times, or are we still stuck in the "modern" era? Furthermore, why were there so many blatant mistakes made during this report? It's not like the report was very long, or detailed the inner workings of a nuclear power plant and its respective safety features and protocols."

      January 13, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • unexplained

      Palin had nothign to do with the pole shift. . .she was too busy kinng all those Blackbirds and fish.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnDorian

      Those Blackbirds needed to die; they were spreading their seed all upon our Earth! I I personally took four and twenty blackbirds and baked them all in a pie. Feathers were EVERYWHERE! The King did not express his appreciation.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
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