It’s not your compass that’s acting up: The ‘magnetic north’ just changed

The Magnetic North Pole keeps moving about and it could be a problem

Earth's Magnetic North Pole May Have Just Officially Shifted

But the planet's magnetic north pole - the north that every compass points toward - is moving at a speed of about 55 kilometers per year.

Global Positioning System is not affected because it is satellite-based. "The continuous shift is an issue for compasses in mobile phones and some consumer electronics".

So scientists at the American NOAA and Britain's BGS have had to update their model ahead of the late 2019 scheduled deadline. It crossed the worldwide date and departs from the Canadian Arctic on the road to Siberia.

To track the Magnetic North Pole the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey developed the World Magnetic Model so that scientists around the world could all relate to the same resource.

The pole has been the friend of navigators for millennia, beckoning compass needles from virtually every point on the planet.

Airport runway names are based on their direction towards magnetic north and their names change when the poles move.

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

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Why it matters: An unpredictable magnetic north is making it hard for high accuracy navigation systems to remain fully functional. The one thing scientists can all agree upon is that the movement of magnetic poles is impossible to accurately forecast for the future. Updates are made to ensure that navigation is safe for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and other needs around the North Pole. The last time it so happened, with the magnetic north pole getting somewhere near where the magnetic south pole now is, was about 780,000 years ago. "Earth's magnetic field will still continue to protect us".

Some have speculated that Earth is overdue for another magnetic-field reversal - an event that hasn't happened for 780,000 years - and the North Pole's recent restlessness may be a sign of a cataclysm to come.

Despite concerns, the Earth's northern magnetic pole shift is considered normal for geological activity. Only by tracking it, said University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore, can scientists hope to understand what's going on. And while most scientists believe this shift will not lead to any catastrophic mass extinctions, the scenes may be frightening, looking something like the pictures of thousands of dead birds and fish in Arkansas in 2011, which some scientists thought may have been related to animals' sensitivity to changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

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

"The declination has changed just over 2.5 degrees over the past 22 years since Denver opened", Heath Montgomery, former Denver International Airport spokesperson, said in a statement after the last update.

The World Magnetic Model (WMM) is a representation of Earth's magnetic field.

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