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Geomagnetic Data

To measure the Earth's magnetism in any place, we must measure the direction and intensity of the field. The parameters describing the direction of the magnetic field are declination (D), inclination (I). D and I are measured in units of degrees. The intensity of the total field (F) is described by the horizontal component (H), vertical component (Z), and the north (X) and east (Y) components of the horizontal intensity. These components may be measured in units of Oersted (1 oersted=1gauss) but are generally reported in nanoTesla (1nT * 100,000 = 1 0ersted). The Earth's magnetic field intensity is roughly between 25,000 - 65,000 nT (.25 - .65 oersted). Magnetic declination is the angle between magnetic north and true north. D is considered positive when the angle measured is east of true north and negative when west. Magnetic inclination is the angle between the horizontal plane and the total field vector.

The geomagnetic field measured at any point on the Earth's surface is a combination of several magnetic fields generated by various sources. These fields are superimposed on and interact with each other. More than 90% of the field measured is generated INTERNAL to the planet in the Earth's outer core. This portion of the geomagnetic field is often refered to as the Main Field. The Main Field varies slowly in time and can be described by Mathematical Models such as the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) and World Magnetic Model (WMM). The Main Field creates a cavity in interplanetary space called the magnetosphere, where the Earth's magnetic field dominates in the magnetic field of the solar wind. The magnetosphere is shaped somewhat like a comet in response to the dynamic pressure of the solar wind. It is compressed on the side toward the sun to about 10 Earth radii and is extended tail-like on the side away from the sun to more than 100 Earth radii. The magnetosphere deflects the flow of most solar wind particles around the Earth, while the geomagnetic field lines guide charged particle motion within the magnetosphere.

The differential flow of ions and electrons inside the magnetosphere and in the ionosphere form current systems, which cause variations in the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field. These EXTERNAL currents in the ionized upper atmosphere and magnetosphere vary on a much shorter time scale than the INTERNAL Main Field and may create magnetic fields as large as 10% of the Main Field. Other important sources are the fields arising from electrical currents flowing in the ionized upper atmosphere, and the fields induced by currents flowing within the Earth's crust. The Main field component varies slowly in time and can be grossly described as that of a bar magnet with north and south poles deep inside the Earth and magnetic field lines that extend well out into space. The Earth's magnetic field varies both in space and time.

Historically, magnetic observatories were established to monitor the secular change of the Earth's magnetic field, and this remains one of their most important functions. This generally involves absolute measurements sufficient in number to monitor instrumental drift and to produce annual means. Over 70 countries operate more than 200 observatories worldwide. The magnetic observatory mean data are crucial to the studies of secular change, investigations into the Earth's interior, and to global modeling efforts.

Data origin codes:
  • A = Alaskan meridian magnetometer chain (includes Canadian sites) for IMS
  • C = Canadian standard observatory network
  • O = point samples digitized from analog magnetograms
  • F = France
  • G = USGS standard observatory network (one station operated by NOAA)
  • J = Japan
  • K = US AFGL E-W sub-auroral zone magnetometer chain
  • R = Western Canadian meridian magnetometer chain operated for IMS
  • T = Lungping magnetic observatory, Taiwan.
  • U = E-W mid-latitude magnetometer chain operated for IMS
  • V = Variations
  • W = Eastern Canadian meridian magnetometer chain operated for IMS