Unexpected magnetic north pole changes mean new world magnetic model map


At the end of 2017, the magnetic north pole crossed the global date line.

Even though the magnetic North Pole has never stayed idle, scientists have been left wondering as to why it has been moving so erratically.

The natural movement of the magnetic North Pole has accelerated in recent years toward Siberia, threatening to throw the world's smartphones and Global Positioning System (GPS) off-kilter. Seventy years later, Roald Amundsen found it had shifted over 30 miles.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tends to update the location of the magnetic north pole every five years in December, but this update came early because of the pole's faster movement.

In a story February 4 about the magnetic north pole, The Associated Press erroneously described the pole's change in speed. The last version was released at the end of 2014 and was expected to last until 2020.

As the magnetic field's quirks are dynamic, the model has to be updated, which is done on a five-year schedule.

The military depends on where magnetic north is for navigation and parachute drops, while NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and US Forest Service also use it. Global Positioning System is not affected because it's satellite-based. Smartphone users also rely on WMM data for accurate compass apps, maps, and Global Positioning System.

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Meanwhile, smartphones and other electronic devices rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate maps, compasses, and Global Positioning System services. The Fairbanks airport renamed runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009. "Airports around the country use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground", said the agency.

That could bother some birds that use magnetic fields to navigate, and an overall weakening of the magnetic field is not good for people and especially satellites and astronauts.

Exactly why the northern magnetic pole is moving at a faster rate is not clear. The model is accompanied by software that helps navigation services adjust to the magnetic field's quirks.

With the magnetic field of the Earth changing more than predicted, the values can be off requiring an out-of-cycle update such as this. The magnetic drift takes place amid processes at the center of the planet. Complicating matters further, the field also changes over time.

"The difficulty is that we don't have a way to directly observe what is happening in the Earth's core so we have to make a lot of assumptions", Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOA, who works on the WMM, told Motherboard.

Location of the north magnetic pole (white point) and the magnetic declination (contour interval 2 degrees) at the beginning of 2019.

But its swift pace toward Siberia in recent years at a rate of around 34 miles per year has forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model - used by civilian navigation systems, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and United States and British militaries - a year ahead of schedule.