Geomagnetic Laboratory

Image of the laboratory

Opened in 1968, the Geomagnetic Laboratory of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) serves as the headquarters for the Geomagnetic Monitoring Service and the Geomagnetic Hazards Project of the Government of Canada. It also provides engineering and technical support to other NRCan Programs, including Earthquake Monitoring and the Crustal Geophysics and Marine Geophysics.

Staff at the Laboratory operate the Canadian Magnetic Observatory network, including engineering, technical support, data processing, and data dissemination. The Laboratory also constitutes the National Authority for all magnetic declination information for Canada. The Canadian Space Weather Forecast Service operates from the Laboratory, providing routine forecasts and reports of geomagnetic activity and other space weather parameters. Research is conducted, often in conjunction with industrial or academic partners, on a variety of geomagnetic and space weather hazards to technological systems. These include: modelling of geomagnetically induced currents in power systems; telluric current effects on cathodic protection of pipelines; high energy particle effects on satellites; induction in submarine phone cables; the effects of ionospheric and geomagnetic disturbances on GPS and geophysical exploration techniques.

Laboratory compound

The Geomagnetic Laboratory consists of a main laboratory building and a 30 hectare compound containing 16 small buildings of non-magnetic construction. Eleven of the buildings in the compound are for test and calibration purposes. Five buildings form the Ottawa Magnetic Observatory, where the strength and direction of the Earth's magnetic field are recorded continually. The Observatory was established here in 1968, in a protected area where the sensitive instruments are safe from the magnetic noise of the city. It is a replacement for Agincourt (Toronto) Magnetic Observatory, which was forced to close because of the encroachment of that city. The original Toronto observatory was established in 1839.

Calibration services

The Geomagnetic Laboratory has facilities for the calibration of professional and military grade magnetic compasses, and for the calibration of magnetometers for field strengths of the order of the Earth's magnetic field and smaller. The Laboratory has coil systems for field-cancellation and the application of controlled fields referenced to the US Bureau of Standards.

The Laboratory staff can also undertake specialized site-calibration surveys throughout Canada. Such surveys include: certification of aircraft compass calibration bases; selection of sites suitable for comparing secondary magnetic instruments against standards; alignment of runways; determination of magnetic field parameters at directional-drilling sites.