Normally the World Magnetic Model is updated every 5 years, but the North Magnetic Pole is changing position so fast, regular updates are now required.
Earth’s magnetic field is changing so quickly that researchers have been forced to update to the World Magnetic Model ahead of schedule. Developed by NOAA and the British Geological Survey, the model is widely used for precision navigation of devices ranging from nuclear submarines to the common smartphone. Your own phone may be affected.
Pick up your cell phone and look at it. That rectangular marvel of modern technology contains thousands of lines of code. Among them is the World Magnetic Model (WMM)–a program that helps your phone navigate. And it’s in a bit of trouble. Researchers have announced that the WMM needs an emergency update because Earth’s magnetic field is changing.
Savvy backcountry hikers have long known that compass needles don’t really point north. The magnetic north pole is displaced hundreds of miles from the true north pole and, to make matters worse, it wanders unpredictably from year to year. To find true north in the continental USA, you have to correct compass directions by as much as 20 degrees using a special “declination table.”
The World Magnetic Model is a computer program that makes this correction for you. It improves the navigation of devices ranging from nuclear submarines to common smartphones.
“The WMM is the standard magnetic model used for navigation by organizations such as NATO, the Ministry of Defence, and the US Department of Defense, and also by smartphone operating systems such as Android and iOS,” explains Will Brown of the British Geological Survey’s Geomagnetism Team, which produces the model in collaboration with NOAA of the USA.
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