The erratic magnetic field of the planet forces the emergency update to the global navigation system


The Earth's magnetic north pole is approaching Siberia at an incredibly fast pace, and experts are not sure why.

The erratic movement has forced scientists to monitor the planet's magnetic field to update its system that is the basis of global navigation, from Google Maps to shipping.

As the liquid iron rotates around the Earth's core, the magnetic field and thus the poles move gradually and often unpredictable.

Scientists should periodically update the World Magnetic Model to map this process, and the latest version – produced in 2015 – should last through 2020.

However, the magnetic field has changed so rapidly and erratically that while conducting a routine check in early 2018, British and American researchers realized that drastic measures were needed.

The change they observed was so large that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigation errors.

To explain this, scientists from the British Geological Survey and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are issuing an unprecedented emergency update to the model.

They fed on the latest data, including an unexpected geomagnetic pulse that occurred below South America in 2016, to ensure the system is more accurate.

The north pole movement, which has been accelerating for the last 40 years, further exacerbated the displacement of the magnetic field and made the new model even more necessary.

Its release should be imminent, but the downfall of the US government means that it has been postponed until the end of January.

The changes are essential because the system is used by aircraft, ships and even smartphones, which make use of the Earth's magnetic field to determine the direction someone is facing.

The change is felt most intensely in the Arctic around the North Pole, meaning that any vessel in the region would be hit harder by an inaccurate model.

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"The fact that the pole is accelerating makes this region more prone to large errors," said NOAA geomagnetist Dr Arnaud Chulliat. Nature.

However, scientists are still not clear on what exactly is behind the recent changes.

Waves leaving the Earth's core may be behind the type of geomagnetic pulses that occurred in 2016, and the displacement of the north pole may result from a high-speed jet of liquid iron under Canada.

As they continue to investigate what is triggering the dramatic shifts beneath our feet, researchers expect their last update to remain correct until the next planned update in 2020.


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