Runway Closes for Realignment with Magnetic North Pole

Airport runways don’t need to be moved but they do need to reflect changes going on deep within the Earth. Many airports with runways running north-south are waiting for word from the Federal Aviation Administration to see if they need to rename their main runways.

Because the earth’s magnetic north pole is shifting, changes must be made to airports runways. Changes in the Earth’s magnetic core are causing the magnetic north pole to shift about 40 miles each year, according to a 2009 National Geographic article. And that means any structure that is built along a magnetic heading — like a runway — will eventually have to change to match the changes in the magnetic north pole.

Since pilots use this information to land planes new numbers on the runways must be painted to reflect the shifting pole. In Tampa, Florida, the international airport is shutting one runway at a time to paint new numbers with accurate magnetic compass headings.

It’s common for airports to change their runway names every 20-30 years.

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