Earth's magnetic field is currently moving at an erratic rate, pushing the magnetic north pole away from Canada and closer to Siberia.
Studies suggest that Earth developed a magnetic field at least four billion years ago. The field is generated due to the molten iron, which is present in Earth's core and keeps on swirling around through convection currents. The constant churning and flowing of molten iron creates a complex pattern of magnetism, which is difficult to model and predict accurately.
According to scientists, Earth's magnetic poles tend to shift slightly over the course of time. They can move several kilometres in a single year. But this rate of movement has become increasingly erratic, for reasons that are not yet clear to geologists.
In 2016, a forceful geomagnetic pulse happened under South America, which likely contributed to the current unexpected changes in the magnetic field, scientists believe.
"The error is increasing all the time," says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and at the National Centres for Environmental Information, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In a recent American Geophysical Union meeting, the University of Leeds geomagnetist Phil Livermore revealed that two massive patches of magnetic field - one beneath Canada and another beneath Siberia - likely govern the location of the north magnetic pole.
"The Siberian patch is winning the competition," Livermore said.
Every five years, the NOAA updates the changes in the Earth's magnetic field in the World Magnetic Model (WMM). The WMM is a standard model of the core and large-scale crustal magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation across the globe. It was last updated in 2015, and the next edition was planned for 2020.
However, strange behaviour of Earth's magnetic fields has forced scientists to fix the map now. Scientists had planned to release the latest edition of the WMM on 15 January, but the release has been postponed until at least 30 January due to the on-going government shutdown in the US.
For the past three years, scientists at NOAA and the British Geological Survey have been studying the changes in Earth's magnetic fields, and will use that data to update the WMM.
The team hopes the new model will last until 2020.
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