Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move


Beggan said the recent shifts in the north magnetic pole would be unnoticed by most people outside the Arctic, for instance those people using smartphones in New York, Beijing or London.

"The dynamo of Earth's core creates a magnetic field that is slightly tilted from the planet's rotational axis".

"The magnetic field (changes) continuously, but it is partly because of its natural behaviour", he added. While having occurred a number of times in Earth's history, the last time such an event occurred was nearly 800,000 years ago. That's about one year earlier than the scheduled release of the 2020 update.

Usually released every five years, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday's early update of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) would "accurately represent the change of the magnetic field" since the last update in 2015.

The update will help navigation services that rely on the World Magnetic Model to calibrate users' geolocation data, the NOAA said. The rate of the North Pole's motion, however, has been fast enough that the agencies who produce the model aren't comfortable with waiting for the current model expiration at the end of 2019.

But the north magnetic pole's inexorable drift suggests that something unusual - and potentially powerful - is taking place deep within Earth.

Some scientists are even wondering if the Earth is in for bigger changes: combined with a weakening magnetic field, it might spell an eventual magnetic reversal.

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A more serious possible effect of the "tug of war" between magnetic field patches in northern Canada and Siberia, which some scientists say is causing the accelerated movement of the magnetic north pole, is its potential to weaken the magnetic shield sparing earth from deadly solar and cosmic radiation.

This is something that scientists do not have full clarity on.

Deep beneath the surface of the planet is a vast ocean of molten iron and nickel, churning and generating the planet's magnetic field. The study of the phenomena happening inside the earth can only be done indirectly or through computer modelling, because of the extremely hot temperatures prevailing there.

In the 1900s magnetic north moved less than a hundred feet per day, but in the 1990s this started to increase.

As the system is used in modern technology, our mapping systems could be affected.

Curiously, the south magnetic pole hasn't mirrored the peregrinations of its northern counterpart. Most recently, it appears that magnetic north is shifting more rapidly towards Siberia, but that could change without warning at any time. It has released a set of software that will update these instruments to the new positions of the magnetic north pole.

The next official WMM release will be WMM2020 and will launch next year.

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