RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A compass tells which way is north, but there’s concern over the magnetic north pole moving at a fast rate.
The magnetic north pole has never sat still. It moves because of the liquid metal layer in the earth’s outer core. That core is constantly swirling and these currents pull on the magnetic field causing it to move.
Dr. Paul Byrne of North Carolina State University says, “it’s the change in speed of the rotation of the different parts of the outer core, that means the movement of the magnetic north pole is not the same speed through time.”
As a matter of fact, in the last 100 years, the magnetic north pole has shifted south then inched northward in Northern Canada, moving about seven miles each year.
However, over the last several years, the magnetic north has shifted into high gear and is heading toward Siberia, Russia at 34 miles per year.
Knowing where magnetic north is located is crucial and used in navigation systems — includes mapping systems used Android and Apple phones.
So, the government had to update the model used to pinpoint the location of magnetic north.
Byrne says, “these maps are used for all kinds of things including navigation of aircraft, of military vehicles, for understanding where people are on Earth. Honestly, this doesn’t make a huge difference to people who are not living very close to the pole. It really only effects folks who are really close to the magnetic north pole.”
So, Byrne says your navigation app won’t steer you off a cliff.
“Those apps are going to take on more of this updated magnetic field map and as a result of that, users won’t see any difference themselves using their phones, they’re good.”
Like long range weather forecasts, it is hard to predict what’s next for the magnetic north pole in terms of where it’s going and how fast.
“What we can say for certain, that it is going to continue to move. We can’t say necessarily if it’s going to get faster or get slower again,” according to Byrne.