The USGS Geomagnetism Program & History of Service

The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey's Geomagnetism Program is to monitor the Earth's magnetic field. Using ground-based observatories, the Program provides continuous records of magnetic field variations covering long timescales; disseminates magnetic data to various governmental, academic, and private institutions; and conducts research into the nature of geomagnetic variations.

The Sun and its interaction with the Earth's magnetic field in space.

The Sun and its interaction with the Earth's magnetic field in space.

(Public domain.)

The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey's Geomagnetism Program is to monitor the Earth's magnetic field. Using ground-based observatories, the Program provides continuous records of magnetic field variations covering long timescales; disseminates magnetic data to various governmental, academic, and private institutions; and conducts research into the nature of geomagnetic variations for purposes of scientific understanding and hazard mitigation. The Program is an integral part of the U.S. Government's National Space Weather Program (NSWP), which also includes programs in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSWP works to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space weather warnings, observations, specifications, and forecasts, and its work is important for the U.S. economy and national security.

USGS data are used to model and map the global magnetic field, which requires cooperation among the international community of geomagnetism and various satellite programs. The USGS Geomagnetism Program's work with foreign national geomagnetism programs is coordinated through Intermagnet, a worldwide consortium of observatory programs, and the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy. Regionally, USGS data are used to support aeromagnetic surveys and directional drilling programs for the oil and gas extraction industry. USGS data also are used by the pipeline and electrical power grid industries, as well as for academic studies across a broad range of geophysical sciences.

Magnetic data from Honolulu and Alaska recording the Halloween storm of 2003, one of the largest storms ever recorded.

Magnetic data from Honolulu and Alaska recording the Halloween storm of 2003, one of the largest storms ever recorded.

(Public domain.)

Services

The Geomagnetism Group provides services to governmental, academic, and private communities.

Calibration

  • Declination-inclination magnetomers (DIM)
  • Transit magnetometers
  • Compass-calibration test sets with certificates

Consultation

  • Advice on purchase of magnetic instruments and data-acquisition systems
  • Installation of magnetic instrumentation
  • Decontamination of magnetic facilities and acquisition packages

Compass Rose Surveys

  • Certified surveys conducted anywhere in the western hemisphere

A Long History of Service

Over the course of its existence, the USGS Geomagnetism Program has evolved in response to changing National needs and organizational changes within various Federal agencies. The Program traces its origins back to 1807 when Congress authorized coastal surveys, including geomagnetic surveys, under the Treasury Department. In the 19th century, magnetic stations were established to help with the development of magnetic maps for the United States and Territories. With the purchase of Alaska, coastal surveys became increasingly important, and so in 1878, the Coast and Geodetic Survey (CGS) was established, with a separate Division of Terrestrial Magnetism established in 1899. The first permanent CGS geomagnetic observatory was established in 1900, and because of the co-location of seismometers on some observatory sites, a fruitful collaboration between Geomagnetism and Seismology began. In 1903, the CGS was transferred to the newly established Department of Commerce and became part of NOAA when that agency was formed in 1970. Soon thereafter, both the Geomagnetism and Seismology Programs in CGS were transferred to the USGS.