Jan 7, 2011 – 10:19 AM
The Earth's magnetic north pole is slowly heading toward Russia, according to scientists, but one of the places being affected by this is Tampa International Airport.
Airport officials closed its main runway this week until Jan. 13 to adjust the taxiway signs accounting for the magnetic pole shift, Tampa Bay Online reports.
The runway designation change was called for by the Federal Aviation Administration to reflect a previous National Geographic News report which indicated that the magnetic pole was heading in Russia's direction at almost 40 miles a year.
Magnetic changes in Earth's core are causing this, possibly due to "a region of rapidly changing magnetism on the core's surface," according to National Geographic.
Normally, magnetic fields don't require adjustments to be made at airports, FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told FoxNews.com.
"You want to be absolutely precise in your compass heading," Takemoto said. "To make sure the precision is there that we need, you have to make these changes."
Later this month, two other runways at the Tampa airport will also be closed to update the signs to their new designations.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said that airport runway charting relies on accurate geomagnetic information.
"Aviation is charted using latitude and longitude and the magnetic poles," she said.
"The Earth's poles are changing constantly, and when they change more than three degrees, that can affect runway numbering," she added.
It's not known yet if similar changes will be needed at other airports in the United States.