The north magnetic pole has been moving so fast that it could be a problem for smartphone maps and navigation systems.
The pole has been the ally of navigators formillennia, pulling compass needles from virtually every point on the planet. But unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed, the north magnetic pole has been slowly drifting over time, moving across the Canadian Arctic toward Russia since 1831.
The rate of movement toward Siberia in recent years has risen to 34 miles per year and this has forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model.
”Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field between 2015 and now,” the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information wrote in a press release Monday.
This model is commissioned by the British and US military agencies and is typically updated every five years, the most recent being in 2015. But the agency explained that the “out-of-cycle update … will ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and others operating around the North Pole.”
The model’s primary user is the military, but it has made its way into Google and Apple’s civilian mapping systems. The difference will be minor for civilian purposes, however, and the changes are largely limited to latitudes above 55 degrees.
“For most users below 55 degrees north, there is no real difference,” Ciaran Beggan, a geophysicist at the British Geological Survey, which creates the map with the NOAA, told CNN.
Scientists first noticed the change in 2018 thanks to a “huge amount of satellite data,” which showed the pole had gone beyond the model’s predicted area, Beggan said.
The change is caused by processes deep inside the planet, he said. Earth’s magnetic field is created in its liquid outer core, which is made of liquid iron and nickel. “As it flows it creates an electronic current and that current makes a magnetic field — which drifts with the hot runny core,” he said.
There is nothing to worry about, Beggan said. “It is unusual behavior in historical terms, (by) geological scales it is not unusual,” he said. “The magnetic field (changes) continuously, but it is partly because of its natural behavior,” he added.