A new generation of UK instruments that can measure the magnetic field around a surface could help scientists understand the weather and climate in far-flung areas.
These are the first of their kind, as part of a £200 million government investment to help scientists and the general public in the UK better understand the nature of the magnetic fields that keep the planet’s surface stable.
“What we’re really looking at is how does the environment respond to the environment?” said Professor David O’Sullivan from the University of Cambridge.
“The field is an incredibly complex thing and it’s incredibly difficult to understand it.”
“The idea is to be able to detect this field and then we can understand what is the effect on climate change and other phenomena.”‘
There are many places that are much more stable’The new instruments are called ‘flux measuring instruments’, and are part of the UK’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
“It’s quite a long story,” said Professor O’Neill.
“It involves a lot of different things, but what I’m really looking for is a magnetic field that is relatively stable, and so you can get some information about how well that field is being used.”
So, we can look at whether there’s a bit of fluctuation, or the magnetic dipole of the Earth that is doing something to it.
“If we can measure that, then we know whether that field has any stability.”
It also lets us know what the environment is doing to the Earth.
“We can look and see what is happening in other places in the world.”
This is something that has never been done before.
“Professor O’Neil added that there are many other places where the magnetic environment could be a bit unstable, but not enough to be causing problems.”
There are lots of places that aren’t quite stable, or have a little bit of variation in the magnetic properties of the surface,” he said.”
That’s a real challenge in the field of geospatial information.
“The instrument developed by NGA, called a flux measuring unit, is the equivalent of a handheld compass.”
We use a really small magnetic field. “
If you measure the position of the magnet at a particular location, the instrument will tell you the direction of that magnetic field.”
“We use a really small magnetic field.
So, it’s very sensitive to that field, and we can tell when it is being produced.”
The device is sensitive to different magnetic fields, but its output can only measure one direction of the field, so its output is limited to the direction the magnetic flux is moving.
This is where a detector would need to be mounted, which would also be useful in some cases to track where a field is moving, Professor O’s team said.
The NGA is looking to create a new generation by the end of the decade.
Professor O’s research focuses on understanding the Earth’s magnetic field, but he said it could be useful for many other fields as well.
“You could also do a more comprehensive study of how the Earth behaves under a variety of environmental conditions,” he explained.
“But I think the biggest thing that the flux measuring units have to offer is their ability to detect changes in the direction that a field in the atmosphere is moving.”
“So we can really study how the environment responds to the magnetic changes in that field.”
The Nga said it will be investing in the new instruments, which are currently being developed, as the UK is in the midst of an intense heatwave.
“I think what is exciting about these instruments is that we’re doing them all on the same platform,” said Prof O’Neal.
“With a lot more equipment that can do it in a very cheap way.”‘
It’s like looking at a painting on a piece of paper’This research is being supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.