Australia has officially moved
Australia is officially being moved. Due to the natural movements of tectonic plates, Australia has shifted over 1.5 metres north in the last 22 years and is now out of synch with the worldwide Global Positioning System – more commonly known as GPS.
The continents of the world are projected to merge into one super continent over the next 250 million years and Australia is currently leading the way. No other continent is moving faster than Australia’s 7cm per year cruising speed.
The movement of this tectonic plate can result in earthquakes but the most obvious consequence is that Australia is no longer where we think it is. 1.5 metres may not sound a lot, but it is enough to throw GPS off and necessitate an update of Australia’s longitude and latitude.
GPS is a vital tool in the modern world, both for big business such as shipping and for individuals looking to find out where they are. GPS does not require a phone signal to work, instead relying on a constellation of satellites which ring the earth, making it indispensable in harsh environments such as the Australian outback where travelling without a reliable map is to risk death.
The way Australia is moving may also throw up separate issues in the future. The most obvious example is the potential for self-driving cars to struggle. The era of manual driving is fast coming to a close and Australia might be left behind by the driverless car revolution if a solution cannot be found.
Luckily, the Geocentric Datum of Australia – the latest Australian coordinate system – is being updated and the problem will be averted. Australia will officially shift 1.8 metres north on the 1st January 2017, a slight overcorrection which will align perfectly in January 2020 and thereby ensure that the update remains current for longer.