The natural movement of the magnetic North Pole has accelerated in recent years toward Siberia, threatening to throw the world’s smartphones and Global Positioning System (GPS) off-kilter.
The magnetic North Pole’s unprecedented movement began in the mid-1990s and it is now headed from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia at roughly 55 kilometers per year, the journal Nature reported last month. Earth's poles change due to unpredictable flows of molten liquid iron at the Earth's core caused by the planet's rotation, changing the Earth's magnetic field.
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.
“The Siberian patch looks like it's winning the battle,” University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore was cited as saying.
The U.S.’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement Monday that scientists had updated the World Magnetic Model, used by smartphone and consumer electronics for maps and GPS services, ahead of time to account for unplanned changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.
The update will help navigation services that rely on the World Magnetic Model to calibrate users’ geolocation data, the NOAA said.
“The only thing that seems certain about the magnetic north is its unpredictability,” National Geographic writes.
Reuters contributed reporting.