Articles | Volume 27, issue 5
07 May 2009
 | 07 May 2009

Geomagnetic storm effects on GPS based navigation

P. V. S. Rama Rao, S. Gopi Krishna, J. Vara Prasad, S. N. V. S. Prasad, D. S. V. V. D. Prasad, and K. Niranjan

Abstract. The energetic events on the sun, solar wind and subsequent effects on the Earth's geomagnetic field and upper atmosphere (ionosphere) comprise space weather. Modern navigation systems that use radio-wave signals, reflecting from or propagating through the ionosphere as a means of determining range or distance, are vulnerable to a variety of effects that can degrade the performance of the navigational systems. In particular, the Global Positioning System (GPS) that uses a constellation of earth orbiting satellites are affected due to the space weather phenomena.

Studies made during two successive geomagnetic storms that occurred during the period from 8 to 12 November 2004, have clearly revealed the adverse affects on the GPS range delay as inferred from the Total Electron Content (TEC) measurements made from a chain of seven dual frequency GPS receivers installed in the Indian sector. Significant increases in TEC at the Equatorial Ionization anomaly crest region are observed, resulting in increased range delay during the periods of the storm activity. Further, the storm time rapid changes occurring in TEC resulted in a number of phase slips in the GPS signal compared to those on quiet days. These phase slips often result in the loss of lock of the GPS receivers, similar to those that occur during strong(>10 dB) L-band scintillation events, adversely affecting the GPS based navigation.