Magnetic north is moving quickly causing compasses to show misleading directions

Earth's Magnetic North Pole Was Moving So Fast Geophysicists Had to Update the Map

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These sporadic changes in direction and speed make it hard for scientists and the WMM to predict what exactly Earth's magnetic field will look like in five years.

Earth's north magnetic pole was drifting so quickly in the last few decades that previous estimated are no longer accurate enough for navigation.

Federal organizations like NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration use something called the World Magnetic Model for navigational purposes as well as surveying and mapping, satellite tracking, and air traffic management. For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009. It's happened many times in Earth's past, but maybe not in the last 780, 000 years.

Usually released every five years, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday's early update of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) would "accurately represent the change of the magnetic field" since the last update in 2015.

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

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

The reason is turbulence in Earth's liquid outer core of iron and nickel, says University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop. Scientists say the Earth's internal processes might cause these erratic changes, CNN noted.

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The charts, known as the World Magnetic Model (WMM), are used to convert between compass measurements of magnetic north and true north.

Some scientists believe that Earth could be heading for a magnetic pole reversal.

According to National Geographic, there appears to be a "tug-of-war" between two patches of magnetic field under northern Canada and Siberia thousands of kilometers below Earth. By the summer, the discrepancy between the World Magnetic Model and the real-time location of the north magnetic pole had almost exceeded the threshold needed for accurate navigation, said William Brown, a geomagnetic field modeler for the BGS.

"We've updated the model on a five-year cycle, because in the past, that's the average amount time it takes for the errors to become too large", Chulliat said.

This pole is defined as the point at which magnetic field lines point vertically down. And an overall weakening of the magnetic field isn't good for people and especially satellites and astronauts. Everyday users of maps applications will never notice the subtleties caused by a misplaced magnetic pole, but submarines and aircraft do still rely on compasses in addition to newer technologies.

'Your smartphone camera and various apps can use the magnetic field to help determine the direction you are facing, ' he continued.

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