Science

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

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

The magnetic north pole has been moving so fast that scientists on Monday released an update of where it really was, almost a year ahead of schedule.

Over time, and especially in a scenario where Earth reverses polarity and the magnetic poles swap places, the moving of the Magnetic North Pole will affect animals, birds and sea life that use the polls' magnetic fields for navigation. Because the magnetic north pole moves about 55 kilometers (34 miles) each year, governing agencies release updates to the model every five years.

At the moment, the northern magnetic pole is moving away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia.

The U.S.' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement Monday that scientists had updated the World Magnetic Model, used by smartphone and consumer electronics for maps and Global Positioning System services, ahead of time to account for unplanned changes in the Earth's magnetic field. Planes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as back-up navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the newly issued World Magnetic Model.

Scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey collaborate to produce a new World Magnetic Model - a mathematical representation of the field - every five years.

Daniel Lathrop, a geophysicist at the University of Maryland, said: "It's not a question of it it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse".

Maintaining an accurate measurement of the north magnetic is especially crucial since the WMM is used by United States and British military agencies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and smartphone technology, like Apple or Google Maps. It has released a set of software that will update these instruments to the new positions of the magnetic north pole. The magnetic field changes due to unpredictable flows of the Earth's molten core.

Since 1831, the north magnetic has been moving across the Canadian Arctic towards Russian Federation, which is unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed.




The origin of Earth's magnetism lies in its outer core, a more than 2,000-km layer of liquid iron and some other metals like nickel, that surrounds the central core, or the innermost part.

Earth's magnetic field is now getting weaker, and scientists believe the poles could "flip" at some point in the future.

"It's not a question of if it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse", Lathrop said. The individual lines in red and blue show the magnetic field lines of Earth.

Smartphones and other electronic devices rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate maps, compasses, and Global Positioning System services.

There's an epic "tug-of-war" between magnetic field patches and apparently the one beneath Siberia is winning.

Earth's magnetic field has been slowly changing throughout its existence. The military uses the WMM for undersea and aircraft navigation, parachute deployment, and more.

'Your orientation, the direction you are facing, comes from the magnetic field'.