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


EXCERPT: . . . Despite its short-term use, this unexpected update is vital to navigators the world over, including those in charge of military, undersea and aircraft navigation; commercial airlines; search-and-rescue operations and other projects circling the North Pole, NCEI reported. Other agencies, such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Forest Service also rely on the model for surveying and mapping, satellite and antenna tracking, and air-traffic management. Even smartphone and consumer electronics companies need an accurate model so that they can provide users with up-to-date maps, compass applications and GPS services.

Researchers have known since the 1800s that magnetic north isn't static. But in the 1990s, it started moving faster, from just over 9 miles (15 kilometers) a year to about 34 miles (55 km) annually, Chulliat said. Then, in 2018, it took a leap over the international date line and took up residence in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Interestingly, magnetic north has been moving closer to true north over the past few years. "It's coming from a place where it was farther away from the north geographic pole, and now it's very close to the geographic pole," Chulliat said. "But, of course, if it continues in the same direction, it will go past the geographic pole and farther away again, but on the other side of the Earth, on the Russian side."

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