Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica

'While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable - the north pole's movement could subtly change direction, for instance - there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously'.

In recent years, magnetic north has been shifting at a rate of around 34 miles per year, NPR reported.

WASHINGTON (AP) - North isn't quite where it used to be.

A more serious possible outcome of the "tug of war" between magnetic field patches in northern Canada and Siberia, which some scientists say is causing the accelerated movement of the magnetic north pole, is its potential to weaken the magnetic shield sparing earth from deadly solar and cosmic radiation.

As the magnetic field's quirks are dynamic, the model has to be updated, which is done on a five-year schedule. The model uses the latest data to predict how the magnetic field and two magnetic poles will move in the years in-between updates.

At the end of 2017, the magnetic north pole crossed the global date line. Smartphone users also rely on WMM data for accurate compass apps, maps, and Global Positioning System.

Global Positioning System isn't affected because it's satellite-based, but airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation, said University of Colorado geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat, lead author of the newly issued WMM.

Compasses have been used for navigation long before Global Positioning System was ever even dreamed of.

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.

For example, the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska, renamed a runway 1L-19R to 2L-20R in 2009.

Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 1,400 miles (2300 kilometers) toward Siberia. Its speed has jumped from about 9mph to 34mph since 2000. Earth's magnetic field is created in its liquid outer core, which is made of liquid iron and nickel.

'It has changes akin to weather, Mr Lathrop said.

Magnetic field variation is normal, if not easily predicted, but changes typically don't throw off navigation systems enough to warrant more frequent updates to the model. And the magnetic poles frequently don't line up with the pole defined by the axis of the Earth's rotation.

Magnetic North is always moving, but recently the movement has significantly increased in pace, although scientists don't really know why. Scientists discovered the pole was not where it should be in September a year ago, and, as a result, had to update the model that tracks its movements.

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

The Earth's magnetic field doesn't neatly line up with the geometry of our near-spherical planet. Declination is the difference between true north and where the compass points to.

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