Magnetic North Pole Shifts

Just when you thought the world couldn’t get any less predictable, scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) have been forced to update the world magnetic model (WMM) a year ahead of schedule. The reason? The earth’s northern magnetic pole is moving quickly away from the Canadian Artic toward Siberia.

It’s actually hard to overstate the importance of this shift. The WMM is an essential part of our modern technical life. At the most basic level, our smart phones use the WMM to provide accurate mapping and GPS services. More critically, navigation systems at airports around the world rely on the WMM to guide aircraft to safe landings. And the military uses the WMM to help aircraft, ships and submarines navigate the seas and the skies.

According to a posting on the NCEI website, the WMM is typically updated every five years, with the next version having been scheduled for release at the end of this year. But the update was issued in mid-January, nearly a year earlier than planned, “due to unplanned variations in the Artic region.”

The NCEI says that it has reconstructed the history of the earth’s magnetic field for approximately the last 160 million years, and that the magnetic field is has gone through periods of strengthening, weakening and changes in polarity during that time.

The NCEI posting on the shift in the world’s magnetic model is available at https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/world-magnetic-model-out-cycle-release. (And, on this Valentine’s Day, remember that your love may be the only thing in life is constant!)

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