"Polarlicht 2" by Senior Airman Joshua Strang of the United States Air Force / Public Domain

The magnetic North Pole is quickly moving toward Siberia — and no one knows why

Feb 6, 2019

By Brian Resnick

If you take out a compass and follow the needle north, it won’t take you directly to the North Pole — or 90 degrees north latitude.

Instead, your long journey by land and sea and ice would currently take you to a spot in the Arctic Ocean a few hundred miles away from geographic North. 115 years ago, it would have dropped you off in Canada.

This week — after a delay due to the US government shutdown — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a new World Magnetic Model that shows the pole has moved yet again, and at a weirdly fast pace.

The model is a map of magnetic north and the Earth’s magnetic field. And magnetic north has now moved away from Canada and toward Siberia, in a nearly straight line.

The locations of magnetic north and south have always been moving targets. Because of that, NOAA and its partners in the UK release an updated magnetic model of the Earth every five years. That way, navigation systems that use magnetic compasses, like those used by airplanes, can be more accurate and correct for the difference between the magnetic poles and the geographic ones.

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