Skip to main content


We’d like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest.

The impact of geomagnetic substorms on GPS receiver performance


During the current period of solar maximum, there is concern within the GPS community regarding GPS receiver performance during periods of intense geomagnetic substorms. Such storms are common in the high latitude auroral region, and are associated with small-scale scintillation effects, which can cause receiver tracking errors and loss of phase lock. The auroral oval can extend many degrees equatorward under active ionospheric conditions, with an impact on precise positioning applications in Canada, the United States and Northern Europe. In this paper, a study of receiver tracking performance is conducted during periods of auroral substorm activity. Dual frequency observations are obtained using codeless and semicodeless GPS receivers (Trimble 4000SSi, NovAtel MiLLennium and Ashtech Z-12), and performance comparisons are established and interpreted with respect to GPS availability at solar maximum and the years beyond.


  1. Aarons, J., Global morphology of ionospheric scintillations, Proceedings of the IEEE, 70, no. 4, 1982.

  2. Blewitt, G., An automatic editing algorithm for GPS data, Geophys. Res. Lett., 17(3), 199–202, 1990.

  3. Clynch, J. and C. Henry, Ionospheric effects on GPS and DGPS in polar regions, Proceedings of the ION GPS-94, Salt lake City, Utah, September, 1994.

  4. Clynch, J. and J. Aarons, High latitude GPS observations and receiver constraints, Proceedings of the Ionospheric effects Symposium 1996, edited by J. M. Goodman, 1996.

  5. Hargreaves, J. K., The Solar-Terrestrial Environment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992. Knight, M., M. Cervera, and A. Finn, A comparison of predicted and measured GPS performance in an ionospheric scintillation environment, Proceedings of the ION GPS-99, Nashville, Tennessee, September, 1999.

  6. Leick, A., GPS Satellite Surveying, second edition, JohnWiley & Sons, U.S.A., 1995.

  7. Nichols, J., A. Hansen, T. Walter, and P. Enge, High latitude measurements of ionospheric scintillation using the NSTB, Proceeedings of the ION National Technical Meeting, San Diego, California, January, 1999.

  8. Rostoker, G., Some observational constraints for substorm models, in Magnetospheric Substorms, edited by J. R. Kan, T. A. Potemra, S. Kokubun, and T. Iijima, pp. 61–72, Geophysical Monograph 64, AGU, Washington, D.C., 1991.

  9. Skone, S. and M. E. Cannon, Detailed analysis of auroral zone WADGPS ionosphere grid accuracies during magnetospheric substorm event, Proceedings of the ION GPS-98, Nashville, Tennessee, September, 1998.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. Skone.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Skone, S., de Jong, M. The impact of geomagnetic substorms on GPS receiver performance. Earth Planet Sp 52, 1067–1071 (2000).

Download citation


  • Auroral Oval
  • Cycle Slip
  • Ionospheric Scintillation
  • Cycle Slip Detection
  • Data Dropout