By the summer, the discrepancy between the World Magnetic Model and the real-time location of the north magnetic pole had almost exceeded the threshold needed for accurate navigation, said William Brown, a geomagnetic field modeler for the BGS.
As the magnetic field's quirks are dynamic, the model has to be updated, which is done on a five-year schedule.
Some have speculated that Earth is overdue for another magnetic-field reversal - an event that hasn't happened for 780,000 years - and the North Pole's recent restlessness may be a sign of a cataclysm to come.
With the shutdown over, however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has now announced the availability of the new Model. The update has finally been confirmed this week.
The World Magnetic Model (WMM) enables compasses to point north and is used in navigation systems.
Accounting for the shift in the pole's location is particularly important in areas above the 55th parallel, which covers northern Canada, Scandanavia, and much of Russian Federation.
This spot sits off the northwest coast of Greenland and has moved only slightly over the last century.
The discovery of magnetic north in northern Canada dates back to 1831.
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This pole is defined as the point at which magnetic field lines point vertically down. The magnetic field changes due to unpredictable flows of the Earth's molten core.
How do scientists track it?
For decades, magnetic north was steadily inching away from the geographic North Pole, but for the last few years the north magnetic pole has been moving closer to the North Pole.
To keep up with the changing position, the WMM is updated every five years.
Earth's magnetic north pole, the north your compass points to, wanders in the direction of Siberia at a rate of over 34 miles per year - and that poses a problem for your smartphone maps. "If one 'plays the tape backwards, ' the record shows Earth's magnetic field strengthening, weakening, and often changing polarity". Knowing the magnetic north is vital for a number of civilian applications as well. By the early 2000s magnetic north was moving at a pace of 34 miles per day.
The rapid movement forced scientists to release an update of the World Magnetic Model (WMM), or the actual position of the magnetic on February 4 - nearly a year earlier than expected - in order to allow navigational services, including map-based phone apps, to keep working accurately. The last update was 2015 and the next was scheduled for end-2019. He and his USA counterparts worked on a new model, which was almost ready to be released when much of the US federal government ran out of funding.
These have now been completed including online calculators, software, and a technical note describing the changes. The update doesn't have much effect for civilian users of magnetic navigation but is critical to military users.