Australia Shifting So Fast It May Not Be As Down Under Anymore


Canberra: It may be time for us to correct our world maps and Australia’s GPS coordinates. According to a report in the New York Times, Australia is drifting upwards so fast that “by geological standards it’s practically flying.”

The secret of its movements are the tectonic plates on which our continents float, with Australia’s plate moving the fastest, averaging about 2.7 inches a year. The plate is moving northward, with a slight clockwise rotation. For context, note that the North American plate moves roughly an inch a year.

Australia’s latitude and longitude have been corrected four times in the past 50 years, with the next adjustment of 4.9 feet due at the end of this year. In 1994, its location was adjusted by about 656 feet.

So, it’s time for world maps and the Global Positioning System to be refocused. “When there is a significant shift in land masses over time we need to revise the models of the Earth from which GPS coordinates are calculated, so for example your neighbor doesn’t end up with your old coordinates,” explained National Geographic’s cartography director Damien Saunder.

Considering GPS systems are getting more accurate by the day, a shift this huge is important to account for.

NYT pointed out that the next generation of GPS devices, will be accurate to within an inch or less, and that new technologies will depend on precise locations.

This makes a readjustment of Australia’s GPS coordinates crucial to its future – a concern echoed by Don Jaska of Geoscience Australia, the government agency incharge of coordinates.

Giving an example of self-driving cars, Jaksa told NYT, “If you’re 1.5 meters out, you’re potentially on the wrong side of the road.”

Various services in Australia are already dependent on GPS systems. Rio Tinto, a mining company for example, has 71 immense ore trucks operating around iron mines in remote regions of Western Australia that are remotely guided from an office in Perth, almost 1,500 km away.


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