To navigate correctly through the face of our planet, we must use the guide from its magnetic field. And for this, we need to keep track of what that field is doing.
With this in mind, every five years scientists update a standardized model of detailed oscillations and deformations of the Earth's magnetic field. But recently things have become strange.
The current version of the World Magnetic Model (WMM) was released by the National Geophysical Data Center of the United States on December 15, 2014. You would think we should not worry about an update until December of this & # 39; year.
Not so. A novelty of Nature by Alexandra Witze underlines the urgent need for an accelerated version of this very important geophysical model of the Earth's magnetic sphere.
In September, the NOAA released a preliminary, error-proof version of the WMM to get everyone ticked until this new version ̵
A fixed and complete version of the WMM was supposed to come this week, but thanks to the closure of the US federal government, we will now have to wait until the end of the month to see it.
It is not too early – the current correction is already outdated.  The WMM is a global map of the deviations in the magnetic field lines that we expect to indicate the way to the poles. The one below is an example from 2010.
For the average weekend camper, a general sense that the magnetic field that surrounds our planet runs perpendicular to the equator is all you really need to get the most out of your trusted compass.
But not everyone can be happy with an estimate of the baseball field. Our high school textbooks could show the magnetic field as a series of clean vertical lines, but the chaotic whirls of rocks fused deep beneath our feet make it all but ordered this bubble of magnetism.
If you're in the transportation business, or you're doing operations for, say, a government defense department, those detours – or magnetic declines – in the field could make a fundamental difference when you're trying to go from A to B.
Here's where the MMM comes into play. The model provides an estimate of how the ever-changing magnetic field will appear in the near future. Usually, the margins of error of their predictions become problematic only after about five years.
During an annual check of the model at the start of 2018, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British Geological Survey warned of problems  Things were so out of their mind, that the maneuver room was already at the limit, and they still had almost two years until the update.
Geomagnetists have been watching the field over the past few years, so they have been aware that something is not working.
Shortly after the release of the current model, the researchers reported that an intense magnetism region accelerated in the northern part of South America, a movement that the planners had not seen coming.
Meanwhile, a vast expanse of the magnetic field extending from Chile to Zimbabwe has become so weak, it risks passing dangerous levels of radiation and damaging the delicate electronics of the satellites in transit.
Then there is the meander of the magnetic poles in what are called excursions. The magnetic North Pole is pausing for Siberia, having recently passed the international date.
We discuss whether such events prefigure a complete inversion, or a long-term weakening of the whole field.
In short, nobody is really so sure of what's going on or how to predict these deviations. And some of these changes have a greater impact than others.
"The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to big mistakes," Geomagnetist Arnaud Chulliat of the University of Colorado Boulder told Witze.
are feeding several years of data to provide a short-term solution to bring us up to 2019, with the usual update still planned for the end of the year.
If these types of corrections become a regular event, or the five-year life span of each version of the model requires rethinking, time will tell.
Geologists are working hard to understand what types of underground meteorological events cause these blips and what it means for the future.
it is certain: we are sadly unprepared if the field does something too crazy.
Fingers crossed we will see that model adjusted online before it arrives in February.