The Art Bell show on November 29, 1995 was interrupted by reports of a shift in magnetic north. One caller from Volcano, California reported a 17 degree shift, and Juneau, Alaska reported a 7 degree shift. The anomaly seemed to be limited to the west coast, with California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska reporting a shift. A report from Alaska stated the Northern Lights had been more impressive than any in memory, over the past few days, and a report from Australia stated that homing pigeons which rely on the magnetic field for their sense of direction had seemed confused for the past 6 weeks. In the days following the Art Bell show, military and airport personnel also reported the phenomena. The shift veered toward the east when recorded on the West Coast, and toward the west, when recorded on the East Coast!
Sunspots can reportedly cause such magnetic deviation, but were not in evidence at this time, per USGS representative John Quinn whose comments were posted on the Usenets, stating:
The only time that magnetic declination anaomalies on the order of 5 to 15 degrees have taken place is during severe magnetic storms. One example is the March 1989 magnetic storm in which the auroral oval moved from its usual location along Alaska and Canada to Mexico. ... Storms of this magnetude are rare, particularly now because we are in a solar quiet time. There were no magnetic storms of consequence during the 48 hours covering 28 and 29 November.
The USGS representative reported a lack of magnetic deviation, however, stating:
I have looked at the Daily magnetic observatory records for the 28'th and 29'th of November. These records show no unusual magnetic activity of the kind reported on the Art Bell show. I have looked at the Tuscon Arizona, Fresno California, Sitka Alaska, Honolulu Hawaii, Fredricksburg Maryland, and several other observatory records. In general the fluctuations were less than 10 arcminutes.
However, a report posted on the I_UFO boards on December 6, 1995 by Patrick Frye of the University of Georgia states that the recent occurrence is unusual, but that local magnetic deviations have been in evidence for several years, in Georgia. He reports:
When I was in the Army and training to be a navigator/surveillance system operator we were given charts that list the magnetic declination from true north. ... It can be pretty great in some areas, up to 10 degrees give or take if I remember correctly. There are several reasons for this. One is the magnetic north is moving because of the fluid nature of the earth, but the key here is that it does not move that much over time. The other reason for the charts is because true north (grid north) and magnetic north are not located at the same place. ... It is all pretty straight forward.
What the FAA announcement says to me is that it is changing rapidly. I was under the impression (from my training) that this change was small and incremental, and that maps and charts only had to changed/updated every few years. Nothing I learned talked about changes of several degrees or more happening in a few days, over night, or even in a month.
Another point that may come into play on a local level is local magnetic anomalies. This probably isn't the case with the FAA report. While videotaping a lawyers conference on Real Estate Law, they were talking about how, on the east side of Atlanta, GA when the land was surveyed, they used a compass and typical surveying equipment. Now, as land is sold and resurveyed they are finding gross mistakes as in some people don't own anything, others own twice or more what they thought, and lines that were supposed to be parallel, cross. Of course now they are using sophisticated equipment and such and they found that the original surveys were not carelessly done but that there are major magnetic anomalies in the area giving totally false headings. All was worked out for the landowners, but it was a mess for awhile.
It only affected, or at least they have only discovered it, in a relatively small area east of Atlanta, and it was discovered about 10 to 15 years ago when Atlanta entered into its boom time. That area, Gwinette Co. and Dekalb Co. were fast growing and subdivisions were blooming everywhere, thus a lot of surveying to lay it all out. This area of GA is on a major granite shelf, Stone Mt., GA is just one obvious manifestation of this, and it is within a dozen miles of the area I'm talking about