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An Emirates Airlines Boeing 777 pictured flying at high altitude. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Earth's magnetic north pole is on the move, and while scientists aren't exactly sure what's behind the migration, they have taken the unprecedented step of issuing an unplanned update to the World Magnetic Model.

Why it matters: The World Magnetic Model, which is issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), exists to help undersea and aircraft navigation, among other uses. It's normally updated every 5 years, and the last one was published in 2015. The next wasn't planned until the end of this year.

According to NOAA, smartphone companies also use the model for providing compass apps, maps and GPS services. Safely navigating jetliners over the North Pole can get particularly tricky based on even small shifts in the magnetic field, and such cross-polar routes are proliferating between the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Details: The magnetic north pole has been moving away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia at an increasing pace.

  • According to Seth Borenstein of the AP, the magnetic north pole has been moving at about 34 miles a year. This is an increase in speed of about 9 miles per year since 2000.
  • The reason for the movement likely has to do with changes in the Earth's liquid outer core, Borenstein wrote, where the motion of certain metals, such as iron and nickel, creates an electric field.

"It has changes akin to weather," University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop told the AP. "We might just call it magnetic weather."

The newly issued model may force some airports to rename their runways, since runway designations refer to their heading in relation to magnetic north. This can be costly, since it requires repainting runways, updating signs and altering aviation charts.

Why you'll hear about this again: Eventually, the magnetic poles are expected to reverse themselves, as they have done in the past. This is expected to be preceded by a significant weakening of the Earth's magnetic field. It won't happen overnight, but rather during the course of about 1,000 years.

A pole reversal could hamper the ability of some birds and other creatures that use the magnetic field to navigate.

Go deeper: Check your compass: The magnetic North Pole is on the move (AP)

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

7 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 7 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."