Earth’s magnetic North Pole has drifted so fast that authorities have had to officially redefine its location.
Earth’s magnetic field is a result of spinning molten iron and nickel 1,800 miles below the surface. As the constant flow of molten metals in the outer core changes over time, it alters the external magnetic field.
Although its movement began in the mid-1990s, in the last years the Earth’s magnetic North Pole has been moving at an unprecedented rate ─at roughly 34 miles per year─ from the Canadian Arctic toward Russia.
The wandering pole affects many human activities as civilian and military navigation, airport runways, and prevents the accurate work of government agencies around the world. Specifically, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Forest Service use the magnetic poles in their daily operations from mapping to air traffic control. On a more individual level, smartphones use the magnetic north for GPS location and compass apps.
For those reasons, authorities have had to officially redefine the location of the magnetic North Pole which is specified by the World Magnetic Model.
While the rapid movement of Earth’s magnetic North Pole may cause concern over the potential flip of magnetic poles, there is no evidence that such a flip is imminent.
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Image from NOAA NCEI/CIRES