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February 6, 2019 -- Magnetic north is on the move, forcing an emergency update for GPS systems which need its precise location to function accurately.
Earth’s magnetic North Pole is moving far faster than it has before, forcing scientists to issue an emergency update for the World Magnetic Model, critical to sea and military GPS navigation, as well as gadgets like smartphones.
It is normally updated every five years but the schedule has been pushed forward a year due to the accelerated rate at which the pole is moving.
The wandering magnetic north pole, which long jiggled above Canada and barely moved, is now moving 48km a year towards Siberia. Since the 1990s, the movement has accelerated from about 15km a year to 50-55km a year.
Earth’s magnetic field is generated mainly by movement of the liquid iron that makes up most of our planet’s core, some 3,000km beneath the surface. That movement causes the magnetic poles to shift, but the cause of recent acceleration remains unknown.