Earth's Magnetic North Pole Is Moving Faster Than Ever

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But the north magnetic pole's inexorable drift suggests that something odd - and potentially powerful - is taking place deep within Earth. The Earth behaves like a giant bar magnet - well, nearly - and this behaviour defines its magnetic north and south poles, which are not static.

On Monday, February 4, the World Magnetic Model has found the pole is moving by an approximate 34 miles (55km) a year.

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

The movement forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM), which is used by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and militaries around the world, for its location.

Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Dr Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the WMM.

Every five years, scientists with NOAA and the British Geological Survey update WMM using the latest measurements of Earth's magnetic field.

Scientists know the Earth's magnetic field is largely controlled by the movement of iron and nickel inside the planet's outer core, but the precise nature of the mechanism remains a mystery.

Daniel Lathrop of the University of Maryland said, '"It has changes akin to weather". To compensate, the US' National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom's Defence Geographic Centre have combined to build the World Magnetic Model.

The magnetic north pole's movement over the past five decades.

"As it flows it creates an electronic current and that current makes a magnetic field - which drifts with the hot runny core", he said.

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"The only thing that seems certain about the magnetic north is its unpredictability", National Geographic writes. Research into rock signatures has shown that this can happen about every 250,000 years, except for the last one - that happened around 780,000 years ago.

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.

'It's not a question of if it's going to reverse, the question is when it's going to reverse, ' Dr Lathrop said.

This map shows the location of the north magnetic pole (white star) and the magnetic declination (contour interval 2 degrees) at the beginning of 2019.

When it does, it will not be like a coin flip, but will take 1,000 or more years, experts said. It is also used by smartphone providers for Global Positioning System, maps and compass apps.

All of these differences can cause problems for people and devices that attempt to navigate using the magnetic field.

"The magnetic field (changes) continuously, but it is partly because of its natural behaviour", he added.

Earth's magnetic field has been slowly changing throughout its existence. While modern smartphones, vehicles, ships, and airliners are connected to satellite-based navigation systems, like GPS and GLONASS, their receivers don't provide a sense of direction, rather, only a person or vehicle's fixed location.

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

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