“Something strange is going on at the top of the world,” reports Alexandra Witze for Nature:
Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.
On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.
The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.
By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.
Well good thing they’re going to revise that World Magnetic Model, eh? Oh, wait:
Update, 9 January: The release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown.
Thanks to Trump and his damn wall, ships and airplanes are going to start banging into each other, and our phones will tell us that Stewiacke isn’t really halfway between the north pole and the equator.
Tim Bousquet, Halifax Examiner