The Earth behaves like a giant bar magnet - well, nearly - and this behaviour defines its magnetic north and south poles, which are not static.
With the end of the USA government shutdown, the wait for a new north is over. The update has finally been confirmed this week.
In a story February 4 about the magnetic north pole, The Associated Press erroneously described the pole's change in speed.
NASA has poured cold water on the idea that magnetic field reversals could lead to an apocalypse, saying in 2012 that, 'The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is - in terms of geologic time scales - a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia.
The South Magnetic Pole is moving far slower than the north.
This spot sits off the northwest coast of Greenland and has moved only slightly over the last century. Although not a problem for the general population, the effects of a shifting pole are creating headaches for military systems.
Our planet's magnetic field has weakened 15% in the past 200 years.
The pole's movement towards Russian Federation can be attributed to the Earth's molten outer core.
How do scientists track it?
The Earth's north magnetic pole is moving away from the Canadian Arctic and is heading towards Siberia in Russian Federation, said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Consequently, magnetic north doesn't align with geographic north (the end point of Earth's rotational axis), and it's constantly on the move.
"The magnetic field (changes) continuously, but it is partly because of its natural behavior", Ciaran Beggan, a geophysicist at the British Geological Survey, who also works on the WMM, told CNN. "This out-of-cycle update before next year's official release of WMM2020 will ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and others operating around the North Pole".
This is causing a navigational nightmare for compasses in smartphones, boats and for airport navigators as well as in some consumer electronics, and WMM was forced to update a year early in order to keep it accurate. The last version was released at the end of 2014 and was expected to last until 2020.
Since the model is created and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USA government shutdown delayed the release of the latest data set.
These have now been completed including online calculators, software, and a technical note describing the changes.
The Earth last witnessed such a reversal about 780,000 years ago. The update doesn't have much outcome for civilian users of magnetic navigation but is critical to military users.
Despite concerns, the Earth's northern magnetic pole shift is considered normal for geological activity.