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The magnetic north pole on the move

The magnetic north pole of the Earth is rapidly moving away from the Canadian Arctic to Siberia. This movement has forced NCEI's scientists (¹) to update the World Magnetic Model (WMM) mid-cycle.

Typically, a new and updated version of the WMM is released every five years. With the last release in 2015, the next version is scheduled for release at the end of 2019. Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released , on 24 September 2018 with a year ahead, a new model to more accurately represent the change in the magnetic field between 2015 and today.

This update off-cycle, before the official publication of WMM2020 next year, ensure the safety of navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations and others operating around the North Pole.

This map shows the location of the magnetic North Pole (white star) and the magnetic declination (contour interval 2 degrees) at the beginning of 2019 (Courtesy NCEI)

Smartphone and consumer electronics companies are also based on the WMM to provide users with accurate compass applications, maps and GPS services. This is the case for some marine navigation applications (²).

The compass use declination (the difference between true north and magnetic north of where the compass is located) to help correct navigation systems for a variety of uses. As Earth's magnetic field evolves between the 5 -year release schedule of the WMM, these predicted values can become off as the rate of change in Earth's magnetic field evolves due to unpredictable flows in Earth’s core. The north polar region has one of these erratic changes.

Map of magnetic declination contours. The West Indies have in 2019 a declination of 15° West, No declination 0° crosses France from La Rochelle to Le Havre. (Courtesy NCEI)

Source : World Magnetic Model Out-of-Cycle Release

(¹) National Centers for Environmental Information
(²) Weather4D Routing & Navigation includes WMM to calculate routes and bearings. The new model will be integrated with the next update.


Author : Francis

Since 2009 independent IT trainer and consultant for boating. Translator of many navigation applications on iOS and MacOS. Professional in boating for over 25 years, I provide training for applications and consulting and assistance for the integration of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) on pleasure boats.


  1. Thank you for all the information and your careful watch

  2. Thank you for these valuable information

  3. It would be interesting to know how he moves in 5 years…