Earth's Magnetic North Pole May Have Just Officially Shifted

Earth's magnetic north pole is wandering about 55 kilometres a year

The northern magnetic pole always moves, resulting in a new map of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) every five years. Navigation systems in cars or phones rely on radio waves from satellites high above the Earth to pinpoint their position on the ground.

WMM helps to calibrate accurate geographical data for a host of consumer uses including compass apps, maps, and Global Positioning System services found on cellphones and other electronic devices.

This map shows the new location of the magnetic North Pole (the white star). The early update was initially scheduled to be released at the beginning of the January, but the government shutdown forced a delay. The point is moving approximately 55km every year and in 2017 it moved past the global date line, the point of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is the crossing point between 11.59pm on one day and 12am on the next. He and his USA counterparts worked on a new model, which was almost ready to be released when much of the US federal government ran out of funding.

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. Although not a problem for the general population, the effects of a shifting pole are creating headaches for military systems.

The military depends on where magnetic north is for navigation and parachute drops, while NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Forest Service also use it. Airport runway names are based on their direction toward magnetic north and their names change when the poles moved. The update doesn't have much outcome for civilian users of magnetic navigation but is critical to military users.

Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado, has now warned the movement is occurring "pretty fast".

"It has changes akin to weather", Lathrop said. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009. The magnetic field changes due to unpredictable flows of the Earth's molten core.

Why is the magnetic pole moving?

Despite concerns, the Earth's northern magnetic pole shift is considered normal for geological activity. It's happened many times in Earth's past, but maybe not in the last 780, 000 years.

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

This is the Earth's magnetic field, but perhaps not for much longer, because scientists fear the magnetic field will flip. In fact, recent geological records even indicate that our magnetic field is weakening, a phenomenon that may or may not lead to geomagnetic pole reversal: the north and south poles could flip.

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