Magnetic dip, dip angle, or magnetic inclination is the angle made with the horizontal by Earth's magnetic field lines. This angle varies at different points on Earth's surface. Positive values of inclination indicate that the magnetic field of Earth is pointing downward, into Earth, at the point of measurement, and negative values indicate that it is pointing upward. The dip angle is in principle the angle made by the needle of a vertically held compass, though in practice ordinary compass needles may be weighted against dip or may be unable to move freely in the correct plane. The value can be measured more reliably with a special instrument typically known as a dip circle.

Magnetic dip causes the compass to dip upward or downward depending on the latitude.
Illustration of magnetic dip from Norman's book, The Newe Attractive

Dip angle was discovered by the German engineer Georg Hartmann in 1544.[1] A method of measuring it with a dip circle was described by Robert Norman in England in 1581.[2]

Explanation edit

Isoclinic lines for the year 2020.

Magnetic dip results from the tendency of a magnet to align itself with lines of magnetic field. As Earth's magnetic field lines are not parallel to the surface, the north end of a compass needle will point upward in the Southern Hemisphere (negative dip) or downward in the Northern Hemisphere (positive dip). The range of dip is from -90 degrees (at the South Magnetic Pole) to +90 degrees (at the North Magnetic Pole).[3] Contour lines along which the dip measured at Earth's surface is equal are referred to as isoclinic lines. The locus of the points having zero dip is called the magnetic equator or aclinic line.[4]

Calculation for a given latitude edit

The inclination   is defined locally for the magnetic field due to Earth's core, and has a positive value if the field points below the horizontal (i.e. into Earth). Here we show how to determine the value of   at a given latitude, following the treatment given by Fowler.[5]

Outside Earth's core we consider Maxwell's equations in a vacuum,   and   where   and the subscript   denotes the core as the origin of these fields. The first means we can introduce the scalar potential   such that  , while the second means the potential satisfies the Laplace equation  .

Solving to leading order gives the magnetic dipole potential


and hence the field


for magnetic moment   and position vector   on Earth's surface. From here it can be shown that the inclination   as defined above satisfies (from  )


where   is the latitude of the point on Earth's surface.

Practical importance edit

Magnetic dip causes the compass' pivoting point (marked by the green circle) to no longer overlap with its center of gravity (marked by  ).

The phenomenon is especially important in aviation. Magnetic compasses on airplanes are made so that the center of gravity is significantly lower than the pivot point. As a result, the vertical component of the magnetic force is too weak to tilt the compass card significantly out of the horizontal plane, thus minimizing the dip angle shown in the compass. However, this also causes the airplane's compass to give erroneous readings during banked turns (turning error) and airspeed changes (acceleration error).[6]

Turning error edit

Northerly turning error caused by the magnetic dip
In the Northern Hemisphere, turning north causes the compass to "lag" the turn.
In the Southern Hemisphere, turning north causes the compass to "lead" the turn.

Magnetic dip shifts the center of gravity of the compass card, causing temporary inaccurate readings when turning north or south. As the aircraft turns, the force that results from the magnetic dip causes the float assembly to swing in the same direction that the float turns. This compass error is amplified with the proximity to either magnetic pole.[6]

To compensate for turning errors, pilots in the Northern Hemisphere will have to "undershoot" the turn when turning north, stopping the turn prior to the compass rotating to the correct heading; and "overshoot" the turn when turning south by stopping later than the compass. The effect is the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.[6]

Acceleration error edit

Acceleration error in the Northern Hemisphere, during an airplane's acceleration, cruising, and deceleration stages. A mnemonic for remembering the direction is the word “ANDS” (Acceleration-North/Deceleration-South).

The acceleration errors occur because the compass card tilts on its mount when under acceleration.[7] In the Northern Hemisphere, when accelerating on either an easterly or westerly heading, the error appears as a turn indication toward the north. When decelerating on either of these headings, the compass indicates a turn toward the south.[6] The effect is the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

Balancing edit

Compass needles are often weighted during manufacture to compensate for magnetic dip, so that they will balance roughly horizontally. This balancing is latitude-dependent; see Compass balancing (magnetic dip).

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Murray, Charles (2003). Human Accomplishment (First ed.). HarperCollins. p. 176. ISBN 9780060192471.
  2. ^ Norman, Robert (1581). The newe attractive: shewing the nature, propertie, and manifold vertues of the loadstone: with the declination of the needle, touched therewith under the plaine of the horizon.
  3. ^ Mussett, Alan E.; Khan, M. Aftab (2000). Looking into the earth : an introduction to geological geophysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 140. ISBN 0521780853. OCLC 43227335.
  4. ^ Wood, James, ed. (1907) [1900]. "Aclinic Line". The Nuttall Encyclopædia.
  5. ^ Fowler, C. M. R. (20 December 2004). The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics. Higher Education from Cambridge University Press. p. 49. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511819643. ISBN 9780521893077. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d "Chapter 8: Flight Instruments". Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25B ed.). Federal Aviation Administration. 24 August 2016. p. 26. Archived from the original on 20 June 2023.
  7. ^ Instrument Flying Handbook: FAA-H-8083-15B. Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Transportation. 2014. pp. 5–13, 5–14.

External links edit