Although the magnetic declination does shift with time, this wandering is slow enough that a simple compass remains useful for navigation.
The lines represent magnetic field lines, blue when the field points towards the center and yellow when away.
The rotation axis of the Earth is centered and vertical.
The dense clusters of lines are within the Earth's core.
Earth's magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's interior out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun.
Its magnitude at the Earth's surface ranges from 25 to 65 microteslas (0.25 to 0.65 gauss).
Roughly speaking it is the field of a magnetic dipole currently tilted at an angle of about 10 degrees with respect to Earth's rotational axis, as if there were a bar magnet placed at that angle at the center of the Earth.The North geomagnetic pole, located near Greenland in the northern hemisphere, is actually the south pole of the Earth's magnetic field, and the South geomagnetic pole is the north pole.Unlike a bar magnet, however, Earth's magnetic field changes over time because it is generated by a geodynamo (in Earth's case, the motion of molten iron alloys in its outer core).While the North and South magnetic poles are usually located near the geographic poles, they can wander widely over geological time scales, but sufficiently slowly for ordinary compasses to remain useful for navigation.However, at irregular intervals averaging several hundred thousand years, the Earth's field reverses and the North and South Magnetic Poles relatively abruptly switch places.These reversals of the geomagnetic poles leave a record in rocks that are of value to paleomagnetists in calculating geomagnetic fields in the past.