Check your compass: The magnetic north pole is on the move

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica

What is this phenomenon about?

When this happens, the polarity of the field will reverse and north will be south and south will be north. The geographic poles are defined by the axis around which the planet rotates, and are fixed.

Earth's northern magnetic pole is moving at an unexpectedly fast rate towards Siberia. Declination is important to compasses as it helps correct navigation systems for a variety of uses. And while most scientists believe this shift will not lead to any catastrophic mass extinctions, the scenes may be frightening, looking something like the pictures of thousands of dead birds and fish in Arkansas in 2011, which some scientists thought may have been related to animals' sensitivity to changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

Why it matters: An unpredictable magnetic north is making it hard for high accuracy navigation systems to remain fully functional. Complicating matters further, the field also changes over time. But this time period is not fixed either.

The pole's movement towards Russian Federation can be attributed to the Earth's molten outer core.

Since 1831, the north magnetic has been moving across the Canadian Arctic towards Russian Federation, which is unlike the geographic north pole, which is fixed. Because the magnetic north pole moves about 55 kilometers (34 miles) each year, governing agencies release updates to the model every five years.

These sporadic changes in direction and speed make it hard for scientists and the WMM to predict what exactly Earth's magnetic field will look like in five years. It was a year ahead of schedule.

The model, which is commissioned by the British and USA military agencies, is typically updated every five years, the most recent being in 2015.

"With the last release in 2015, the next version is scheduled for release at the end of 2019".

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The Earth's northern magnetic pole is on the move, scientists say, drifting from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia.

This is something that scientists do not have full clarity on.

The planet's magnetic field is generated almost 2,000 miles beneath our feet, in the swirling, spinning ball of molten metal that forms Earth's core. Scientists do not fully understand how the movement happens or why.

In recent years, magnetic north has been shifting at a rate of around 34 miles per year, NPR reported.

Our planet's magnetic field has weakened 15% in the past 200 years. Similarly, it is crucial for militaries, who need to know this for firing their missiles or for other purposes. The one thing scientists can all agree upon is that the movement of magnetic poles is impossible to accurately forecast for the future.

And while the model's primary user is the military, it has found its way into Google and Apple's civilian mapping systems.

The compasses that are used in modern instrumentation are much more sophisticated, digital and more accurate.

"We've updated the model on a five-year cycle, because in the past, that's the average amount time it takes for the errors to become too large", Chulliat said.

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