EARTH’S magnetic North Pole is dramatically shifting by as much as 30 miles per year – and scientists have no idea why.
Its mysterious motion has forced experts to issue an emergency update to maps used by GPS systems, which rely on the planet’s magnetic poles to plan out travel routes for millions of Brits.
They’re integral to services like Google Maps and Uber as well as traditional GPS mapping tools loaded into cars and vans across the country.
The locations of the magnetic poles are not static but wander as much as 9 miles every year, and scientists keep a close eye on their natural movements.
For some reason, the magnetic North Pole is skittering away from Canada, toward Siberia, at three times the speed scientists expected it to.
It’s shifting at such speeds that experts have been forced to update the map of Earth’s powerful magnetic forces, known as the World Magnetic Model.
This is what the world’s GPS systems use to navigate, guiding tools used by a wide range of modern tech, from everday smartphones to top military hardware.
It’s updated once every five years, and the latest version was supposed to last until 2020, but since Earth’s magnetic field has been behaving so erratically that scientists felt they couldn’t wait.
“The error is increasing all the time,” Arnaud Chulliat, a scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder who works on the project told Nature.
Scientists are still trying to figure out what’s behind the strange behaviour of Earth’s magnetic field.
Earth’s magnetism comes from its scorching hot core, which is filled with liquid iron that churns beneath the planet’s surface.
As Earth rotates, the moving iron generates electric currents that create a magnetic field.
The field is constantly changing, and every 300,000 years ago the poles may even flip.
The last time this happened was around 780,000 years ago, leading some scientists to warn that Earth is overdue a flip – an event that could GPS chaos.