Australia’s position is not exactly where we assume it is. Apparently, the continent has changed its position up to four times in the past five decades.
Since Australia is located on among the fastest-moving tectonic plates in the world, it moved up to 2.7 inches or 6.9 centimeters north annually. In comparison, the US only moves around an inch or 2.54 centimeters each year.
“The reason why different plates move at different speeds is relatively simple: each plate is different,” Lucia Perez-Diaz from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway University told Business Insider. “For each plate, its rate of motion will be determined by a balance between the forces trying to make it move and those resisting that motion.”
It may seem that less than three inches of movement is not really that significant but the distance can accumulate and make our maps outdated and inaccurate. These changes can even cause worse problems for our GPS and satellite navigation systems.
A significant change in the longitudes and latitudes could bring a disaster. For example, an inaccurate GPS could bring our deliveries to the wrong address or it could lead us to the wrong destinations.
Fortunately, GPS devices will be upgraded, making our satellites and ground stations more accurate. This is especially helpful to Australia’s mining industry, which will use more autonomous trucks that rely on GPS coordinates in the future.
The reason why tectonic plates are moving around is not yet clear to experts. Although there have been theories that attempt to explain it, Perez-Diaz asserts that the process of that results to plate motion is still the subject of debate.
It was assumed that the convection currents within Earth’s mantle move the tectonic plates but in recent years, scientists have determined that this is not enough to push around these massive plate tectonics.