Energy & Environment

Magnetic north pole is moving faster than scientists predicted

The magnetic north pole is moving faster than predicted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday. 

The agency released an updated version of the World Magnetic Model, which is used to "ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and others operating around the North Pole."

The previous version, made in 2015, was supposed to last until 2020, but the NOAA had to make another sooner than expected.

"We regularly assess the quality and accuracy of the model by comparing it with more recent data," Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information told Live Science.

In January 2018, "we figured out that the error was increasing relatively fast, especially in the Arctic region. And the error was on track to exceed the specification before the end of the five-year interval."

This version of the World Magnetic Model will only last a year before being updated as previously scheduled.

In the 1990s, the magnetic north poll started moving from just over 9 to about 34 miles per year, Chulliat said. The movement is not static or predictable.

Flows in the Earth's core are responsible for magnetic north's unusual behavior, the NCEI told Live Science.