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The North Pole is moving about at an unprecedented speed, scientists reveal

Illustration of Earth’s magnetic field (Image: Getty)
The North Pole is wobbling about all over the place and scientists can’t explain why.

The pole is a point at Earth’s northerly tip which moves about as molten iron sloshes about in the planet’s core.

But it’s now travelling at the unprecedented speed and appears to be getting faster as it shifts towards Siberia.

The latest World Magnetic Model, which tracks the movement of the Earth’s magnetic field, shows that the magnetic north is moving at a rate of 30 miles per year.

This is the fastest recorded shift of the Earth’s north since the mid-16th century and could play havoc with aviation and navigation systems, including smartphone apps that use GPS.

The WMM has also located ‘caution zones’ on Earth around the magnetic fields where compasses may be prone to errors and send users off course.

‘The magnetic North Pole wandered slowly around northern Canada from 1590 to around 1990 and then accelerated over the past 20 years moving..

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Magnetic field of Earth. Real textures for Earth get from http://www.nasa.gov/
Illustration of Earth’s magnetic field (Image: Getty)

The North Pole is wobbling about all over the place and scientists can’t explain why.

The pole is a point at Earth’s northerly tip which moves about as molten iron sloshes about in the planet’s core.

But it’s now travelling at the unprecedented speed and appears to be getting faster as it shifts towards Siberia.


The latest World Magnetic Model, which tracks the movement of the Earth’s magnetic field, shows that the magnetic north is moving at a rate of 30 miles per year.

This is the fastest recorded shift of the Earth’s north since the mid-16th century and could play havoc with aviation and navigation systems, including smartphone apps that use GPS.

The WMM has also located ‘caution zones’ on Earth around the magnetic fields where compasses may be prone to errors and send users off course.

‘The magnetic North Pole wandered slowly around northern Canada from 1590 to around 1990 and then accelerated over the past 20 years moving from around 10 km (6.2 miles) per year to over 50 km (31 miles) per year,’ Ciaran Beggan of the British Geological Survey told MailOnline.

‘In contrast, the south magnetic pole has barely moved much in the past 100 years as the flow of the outer core there is much more sedate.’

The World Magnetic Model models change in the Earth’s magnetic field. It allows maps, compasses and GPS services to be accurate.

Northern Lights over a snow-covered road close to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in Canada.
Northern Lights over a snow-covered road close to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in Canada. (Getty)

The WMM is used by UK and US militaries as well as NATO.

Earth’s magnetic field is created by the movement of superheated liquid iron in the Earth’s outer core.

As the liquid flows, it drags the magnetic field with it.

‘We think the magnetic north pole has been sucked into a fast-moving jet stream near the top of the planet and that’s causing it to be pulled from Canada to Siberia,’ Dr Beggan said.

‘There are other factors, but that is the main one.’

The updated model also revealed that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening by about 5% every century.

If this continues, the field could eventually reverse. This could spell doom for civilisation because magnetic field would no longer shield the Earth against dangerous solar and cosmic radiation.

‘If the field does reverse, it typically takes 5,000-10,000 years to do so,’ added Dr Beggan.

‘The usual process is that the two strong magnetic poles (north and south) vanish slowly, to be replaced by lots of local poles (so a compass points to its nearest ‘pole’).

‘This state lasts a few thousand years and then the (reversed) south and north magnetic poles re-establish themselves.

‘We won’t know if we’re in a reversal for a long time – certainly much longer than the average human lifetime.’


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