The magnetic North Pole is moving so fast that scientists are having to urgently update maps used by navigation systems.
According to science journal Nature, the magnetic North Pole is moving away from Canada towards Siberia so quickly it is forcing urgent revisions of magnetic models used to guide navigation.
The current version of the World Magnetic Model, which is used by geopositioning systems that help everything from ships to smartphone maps, was originally expected to be valid until 2020.
But scientists realised that it had to be fixed urgently and are now due to update it on January 30 – a move that was delayed due to the current US Government shutdown.
“The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move,” Naturereported. “They realised that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable (safe) limit for navigational errors.”
Scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British Geological Survey regularly check on how the Earth’s magnetic field moves, but recently it has picked up speed – reportedly moving at a rate of around 55km a year.
“The error is increasing all the time,” Arnaud Chulliat, geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, told Nature.
It is not known why its movements are changing erratically, though some scientists reportedly put it down to molten iron underneath Canada.
According to Nature, Phil Livermore of the University of Leeds told an American Geophysical Union meeting: “The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia. The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”