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. your daddy

    blah blah blah. idiots can find anything to argue about. economy in the tank, kids aren't being taught how to be a part of society, education is in the toilet and people claiming to have an iq of 145 are trying to talk down to people. hmmm. must be from new york. you would think with all the intellgent people in new york, you would find a way to get rid of all the rats. maybe that's what keeps shifting the poles polarity? whatever, i agree with peter, nonsense.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ColObvious

    How much later in 2010 do they really think they can wait to do the Tampa-Clearwater Airport????

    January 13, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    lol @ your daddy. . are you havin a bad day?

    January 13, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. Davidson

    Probably sets the GPS off a few centimeters ,actually 1 degree sounds like alot every 56 days.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      GPS is run off of a satellite based location system NOT the earth's magnetic field. I certainly hope that comment was NOT serious.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran

      You are correct. Satellites do not rely on the position of magnetic north to hold orbit. However, it does rely on accurate information from the ground about where exactly magnetic north is, in order to calculate where magnetic north is for the person on the ground. It can still tell you where you are by triangulation with at least 2 other satellites. But your magnetic position relative to magnetic north will still be off. This is a serious problem mostly for transcontinental flights, when 1 degree could translate into hundreds of miles off course. Have a nice day. 🙂

      January 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran

      By the first "ground" I meant the satellite's control center...where it receives its data about the earth. The accuracy of your position read-out depends largely on the instrument you are using. If your instrument (GPS device) is properly calibrated, it will calculate your position accurately. It's the GPS device that does the calculation, not the satellites. Sorry for the confusion.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jay

    I think CNN should take an example from the BBC News site and not allow any comments at all. Most of the comments one reads here and on Yahoo and other sites are just idiotic. I'm sure there will be proof in answers to this post.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • random

      Comments can be the best part of the news too. 😀

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

    Why only this airport ? Would not ALL airports have this issue ?
    Any techno wiz who could get me up to speed on this ?

    January 13, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Navy Pilot

      The mag field around the planet is not uniform. It curves at places, and depends on a bunch of things, including large metal deposits throughout the earth's crust. So a change in magnetic north will affect some areas more than others. Do a search for earth's magnetic field and look for a picture of variance lines. It should help make it clearer.

      January 13, 2011 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
    • gedwards

      The runways are marked in 10 degree increments, and each airport's relation to the pole is different.

      So if the runway is marked 18R/36L, it's means 180 (south) and 360 (north). But due to rounding off, it could actually have been between 175-185/355-005. The closer it was to a far limit, the sooner a shift in the pole will force the relabeling. In this case, it must have been close to 185/005, and with the shifting it's actually 186/006 - forcing the new labeling or 19/1.

      The other aspect is where the pole is shifting. It it shifts directly towards your airport, it will never have to relabel the runways since the N-S line will always intersect your airport. It doesn't matter if it shifts a mile or 1000 miles. (Expect if shifts through your airport to the other side, then N and S will flop.) Airports that are closer and 90 degree from the direction of the shift will see the most change.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jim T

    Headline: Tea Party vitriolic partisanship causing shift in magnetic poles.
    Headline: Obama leadership questioned as magentic poles shift
    Headline: Poles show 6 of 10 Americans feel a loss of national magnetic direction
    Headline: US Press Coverage of National Affairs Has Lost Its ethical sense of direction

    January 13, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. shades

    I fail to understand how this could possibly incite any form of argument..

    January 13, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Commojoe

    All of you poor, holier- and more-brilliant-than-thou geniuses who want to complain about Sarah Palin, yet just LOVE an inexperienced fool who can't speak a coherent sentence without a teleprompter telling him to are VERY sad indeed. But 2012 is coming when we can fix the mistake.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • NobodyIsSafe

      Thanks for your input, CommodeJoe...

      January 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jsands1982

    With all this crap I really won't understand why people act the way they do. Maybe they weren't loved enough. The world is hurting and children are getting sick or dying. The only people that make sense are the ones talking about the current problem, that will effect all of us. I complete agree with Peter
    (January 12th, 2011 11:16 pm ET) comment. But looking at this page I know now why they say "it's not we the people anymore, it's we the people who work for the government." Now can we the people be smart and use our IQ's and maybe find a way to make the system better and more efficient instead of pointing fingers. That way our children of tomorrow will live on and have a better future.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Catie

      Jsands1982, God bless you. You are way too reasonable for anyone on here or anyone who works for CNN.

      January 13, 2011 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Three Dog Mama

    CNN just wanted something to talk about and fill space on their website.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. obviously

    Sara Palin's fault.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. Scott

    Well if the earths magnetic poles are constantly shifting, how come my compass is always pointing north 🙂

    January 13, 2011 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Cookie Monster

      turn your compass slightly to the left... Now, does it appear off now?

      January 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran

      Scott, look up "True North." The change they are referring to is the difference between actual (true) north, and magnetic north. If you have a magnetic compass, it will always point to magnetic north...wherever it may be. Understand?

      January 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ed Bailey

    Didn't know things changed that fast! Don't know no stinking SARAH!

    January 13, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    Hey! Earth's magnetic North Pole also stashed some weed in my car!

    January 13, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
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