The Magnetic North Pole is on the Move

The magnetic north pole’s movement has sped up dramatically in the last 25 years, moving from Canada towards Siberia and causing cartographers and scientists headaches. READ MORE
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You old-fashioned navigators may want to check your declination, because magnetic north is not where it used to be. And for those of you using the map function on your smart phones, pray that the government shutdown ends soon, or you might get lost.

Since the 1800s, scientists have been aware that the magnetic north pole drifted, but in recent years the pole’s movement has sped up dramatically, and that is calling for immediate course corrections.

In the long term, the impact could be really dramatic, but in the short term it creates headaches for the world’s geomagnetist experts. They have been forced to update the World Magnetic Model, which is used for GPS and other navigational guidance, sooner than planned. The update was scheduled for 2020 but was moved to January 15, 2019 because the modeling used to predict the magnetic north pole’s location was falling outside acceptable parameters.

The magnetic north pole is moving so quickly that it could cause navigational errors and the World Magnetic Model needs to keep up with its constantly shifting location. The ongoing government shutdown is further complicating matters. The update has now been pushed back to January 30, 2019.

It's not yet a problem for those who rely on Google Maps or similar programs, but map programs and apps also depend on the World Magnetic Model to tell you where you are.

Currently, the magnetic north pole is moving at 30 miles per year, compared to 9 miles per year in the 1990s. This appears to be due to movements in the core field, Earth’s liquid outer core. One theory is that a high-speed jet of liquid iron under Canada is on the move and weakening its magnetic effect while the Siberian magnetic field is holding steady and pulling the magnetic north pole towards Russia.

You can read more about it in this article in Nature, which first reported the phenomenon.