The magnetic North Pole is moving so fast that scientists are issuing an emergency update to maps used by electronic navigation systems. Magnetic north has crept from the coast of northern Canada a century ago to the middle of the Arctic Ocean now, and it’s moving at what scientists say is “an unusually high speed” of about 31 miles a year.
As a result they are making an unprecedented early update of the World Magnetic Model, which fixes the pole and is responsible for the accuracy of GPS and all modern navigation on everything from nuclear submarines to your latest smartphone.
“It didn’t move much between 1900 and 1980, but it’s really accelerated in the past 40 years,” Ciaran Beggan of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh told Reuters. The moving pole affects navigation, particularly in the Arctic Ocean, and it’s due to unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth.
A five-year review of the model was due in 2020, but the U.S. military asked for an early update because of increasing activity in the Arctic, where the pole’s rapid movement would make a significant difference in accurate navigation. “The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors,” said Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist with NOAA, which runs the model with the BGS.
The update was scheduled to be released on January 15, but it has been delayed until January 30 because of the government shutdown. Read more: