Quickly Moving Magnetic Pole Forces Early Update of World Magnetic Model

The World Magnetic Model (WMM) was developed to simulate and predict the movement of the Earth’s magnetic poles which diverge from true north and south by approximately 11 degrees. This divergence is constantly changing, however, so navigation and satellite systems rely on the WMM to maintain accuracy. The WMM is updated every five years to account for changes in the rate of movement of the Earth’s geomagnetic field.

Scientists from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) were forced to release an early update to the WMM in February when it was found that the movement of the north magnetic pole was accelerating. The government shutdown delayed this update from happening in January. The magnetic pole is now moving toward Siberia at a rate of more than 34 miles per year. The next update of the WMM was scheduled for—and will occur again—in 2020. Concerns that this may signal a full magnetic reversal have emerged as well. Reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field are common in the geological record, but have not occurred notably during the human epoch and certainly not during the technological age in which the effect on human society could be dramatic.

The WMM is crucial for supporting the U.S. defense sector and other governmental organizations. NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Military, Forest Service, and Geological Survey, and many more agencies, rely on inputs from the WMM to maintain navigation and satellite systems, all of which are vital for maintaining Homeland Security.

The NCEI invites individuals to become citizen scientists by installing and using an application called CrowdMag. Geolocation information from many users around the world helps scientists add greater resolution to models such as the WMM, improving navigational accuracy.


More resources and reports can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).


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