THE North Pole is moving – quickly – and scientists have no idea why it is happening.
Precision of where the North Pole is needed for GPS across the globe, and currently is is close to exceeding “the acceptable (safe) limit for navigational errors,” the journal Nature reports.
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, said: “The error is increasing all the time.
“The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors.”
The researchers say that the pole is moving by 34 miles (55km) a year, and it has been becoming more unpredictable for the past 100 years.
While there is no solid explanation as to why it is happening, scientists believe it could be due to a massive section of liquid iron shifting in the planet’s interior.
Nature reports: “The fast motion of the north magnetic pole could be linked to a high-speed jet of liquid iron beneath Canada.”
Phil Livermore of the University of Leeds told an American Geophysical Union meeting: “The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia.
“The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”
The shift could also be due to a possible impending pole reversal, where north becomes south and vice versa.
In recent years, scientists have been gearing up for a potential flip in the magnetic field – a natural phenomena which occurs every 200,000 to 300,000 years when the north and south poles switch.
The poles attempted to swap 40,000 years ago but the process failed.
As a result, the last time the poles switched place was 780,000 years ago, meaning we are long overdue a pole reversal.
Scientists have warned that once the process has begun, it could take 1,000 years to complete.
During that time, Earth’s magnetic field will be compromised leaving living beings on the planet vulnerable to an increased dosage of radiation from the sun.