AUX_OBS Ground Observatory Data

Abstract: We Demonstrate geomagnetic ground observatory data access through VirES - this is the AUX_OBS product distributed by BGS to support the Swarm mission, and contains data from INTERMAGNET and the World Data Centre (WDC) for Geomagnetism. Data are available as three collections: 1 second and 1 minute cadences (INTERMAGNET definitive & quasi-definitive data), as well as specially derived hourly means over the past century (WDC).

See also:

About the data

The data are also available from the BGS FTP server ( If that is more useful to you, you can refer to this older notebook demonstration of access to the FTP server.

Please note the data are under different usage terms than the Swarm data:

Caution: The magnetic vector components have been rotated into the geocentric (NEC) frame rather than the geodetic frame, so that they are consistent with the Swarm data. This is in contrast with the data provided directly from observatories.

# Display important package versions used
%load_ext watermark
%watermark -i -v -p viresclient,pandas,xarray,matplotlib
Python implementation: CPython
Python version       : 3.9.7
IPython version      : 8.0.1

viresclient: 0.10.3
pandas     : 1.4.1
xarray     : 0.21.1
matplotlib : 3.5.1
from viresclient import SwarmRequest
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Organisation of data in VirES

AUX_OBS collection types

Data are organised into AUX_OBSH (hour), AUX_OBSM (minute), AUX_OBSS (second) types. For example, to access the hourly data, use the collection name SW_OPER_AUX_OBSH2_.

request = SwarmRequest()
print(request.available_collections("AUX_OBSH", details=False))
print(request.available_collections("AUX_OBSM", details=False))
print(request.available_collections("AUX_OBSS", details=False))

Within each collection, the following variables are available:

['B_NEC', 'F', 'IAGA_code', 'Quality', 'ObsIndex']
['B_NEC', 'F', 'IAGA_code', 'Quality']
['B_NEC', 'F', 'IAGA_code', 'Quality']
  • B_NEC and F are the magnetic field vector and intensity

  • IAGA_code gives the official three-letter IAGA codes that identify each observatory

  • Quality is either “D” or “Q” to indicate whether data is definitive (D) or quasi-definitive (Q)

  • ObsIndex is an increasing integer (0, 1, 2…) attached to the hourly data - this indicates a change in the observatory (e.g. of precise location) while the 3-letter IAGA code remained the same

Data can be requested similarly to Swarm MAG products

Note that the IAGA_code variable is necessary in order to distinguish records from each observatory

Note that there is a special message issued regarding the data terms

Let’s fetch all the variables available within the 1-minute data, from two days:

request = SwarmRequest()
request.set_products(["IAGA_code", "B_NEC", "F", "Quality"])
data = request.get_between("2016-01-01", "2016-01-03")
ds = data.as_xarray()
Accessing INTERMAGNET and/or WDC data
Check usage terms at
Dimensions:     (Timestamp: 295200, NEC: 3)
  * Timestamp   (Timestamp) datetime64[ns] 2016-01-01 ... 2016-01-02T23:59:00
  * NEC         (NEC) <U1 'N' 'E' 'C'
Data variables:
    Spacecraft  (Timestamp) object '-' '-' '-' '-' '-' ... '-' '-' '-' '-' '-'
    F           (Timestamp) float64 4.297e+04 5.33e+04 ... 4.85e+04 4.962e+04
    Longitude   (Timestamp) float64 72.87 18.82 171.8 58.6 ... 316.4 15.86 9.073
    IAGA_code   (Timestamp) <U3 'ABG' 'ABK' 'API' 'ARS' ... 'VSS' 'WIC' 'WNG'
    Radius      (Timestamp) float64 6.376e+06 6.36e+06 ... 6.367e+06 6.364e+06
    Quality     (Timestamp) <U1 'D' 'D' 'D' 'Q' 'D' 'D' ... 'D' 'D' 'Q' 'D' 'D'
    Latitude    (Timestamp) float64 18.5 68.23 -13.73 ... -22.26 47.74 53.56
    B_NEC       (Timestamp, NEC) float64 3.804e+04 197.1 ... 764.8 4.623e+04
    Sources:         ['SW_OPER_AUX_OBSM2__20160101T000000_20160101T235959_010...
    MagneticModels:  []
    RangeFilters:    []

Above, we loaded the data as an xarray Dataset, but we could also load the data as a pandas DataFrame - note that we should use expand=True to separate the vector components of B_NEC into distinct columns:

df = data.as_dataframe(expand=True)
F Longitude Spacecraft IAGA_code Radius Quality Latitude B_NEC_N B_NEC_E B_NEC_C
2016-01-01 00:00:00 42974.178420 72.870 - ABG 6.375973e+06 D 18.503863 38043.065649 197.10 19986.653510
2016-01-01 00:00:00 53297.873523 18.823 - ABK 6.360062e+06 D 68.225754 10737.698005 1715.90 52176.822927
2016-01-01 00:00:00 38804.092366 171.781 - API 6.376929e+06 D -13.726025 32474.849888 6910.60 -20084.454605
2016-01-01 00:00:00 56202.047989 58.600 - ARS 6.362618e+06 Q 59.231110 15439.829840 3848.14 53902.445874
2016-01-01 00:00:00 28516.997217 345.624 - ASC 6.377908e+06 D -7.896461 19779.633516 -5398.80 -19820.145984
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
2016-01-02 23:59:00 53761.882434 236.583 - VIC 6.366376e+06 D 48.325950 17905.402463 5324.30 50412.184986
2016-01-02 23:59:00 38373.585718 351.718 - VNA 6.359150e+06 D -70.562545 18053.865463 -4436.60 -33569.429593
2016-01-02 23:59:00 23289.026042 316.350 - VSS 6.375511e+06 Q -22.264742 16765.212732 -6976.26 -14582.118244
2016-01-02 23:59:00 48503.461985 15.862 - WIC 6.367486e+06 D 47.736545 20844.849807 1427.50 43772.597647
2016-01-02 23:59:00 49624.347736 9.073 - WNG 6.364323e+06 D 53.559282 18016.450576 764.80 46232.007071

295200 rows × 10 columns

Use available_observatories to find possible IAGA codes

We can get a dataframe containing the availability times of data from all the available observatories for a given collection:

request.available_observatories("SW_OPER_AUX_OBSM2_", details=True)
Accessing INTERMAGNET and/or WDC data
Check usage terms at
site startTime endTime
0 AAA 2005-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2015-12-31T23:59:00+00:00
1 AAE 1998-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2013-12-31T23:59:00+00:00
2 ABG 1997-01-02T00:00:00+00:00 2020-12-31T23:59:00Z
3 ABK 1997-01-02T00:00:00+00:00 2022-03-31T23:59:00Z
4 AIA 2004-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2020-05-26T23:59:00Z
... ... ... ...
140 VSS 1999-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2022-04-26T23:59:00Z
141 WIC 2015-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2022-04-18T23:59:00Z
142 WNG 1997-01-02T00:00:00+00:00 2022-04-26T23:59:00Z
143 YAK 2009-01-01T00:00:00+00:00 2018-12-31T23:59:00+00:00
144 YKC 1997-01-02T00:00:00+00:00 2015-12-13T23:59:00+00:00

145 rows × 3 columns

We can also get a list of only the available observatories during a given time window:

print(request.available_observatories("SW_OPER_AUX_OBSM2_", '2016-01-01', '2016-01-02'))
Accessing INTERMAGNET and/or WDC data
Check usage terms at

['ABG', 'ABK', 'API', 'ARS', 'ASC', 'ASP', 'BDV', 'BEL', 'BFO', 'BLC', 'BMT', 'BOU', 'BOX', 'BRD', 'BRW', 'BSL', 'CBB', 'CKI', 'CLF', 'CMO', 'CNB', 'CSY', 'CTA', 'CYG', 'DED', 'DLT', 'DMC', 'DUR', 'EBR', 'ESK', 'EYR', 'FCC', 'FRD', 'FRN', 'FUR', 'GAN', 'GCK', 'GDH', 'GNG', 'GUA', 'GUI', 'HAD', 'HBK', 'HER', 'HLP', 'HON', 'HRB', 'HRN', 'HUA', 'HYB', 'IPM', 'IRT', 'IZN', 'JCO', 'KAK', 'KDU', 'KEP', 'KHB', 'KNY', 'KOU', 'LER', 'LON', 'LRM', 'LYC', 'LZH', 'MAB', 'MAW', 'MBO', 'MCQ', 'MGD', 'MMB', 'NAQ', 'NEW', 'NGK', 'NVS', 'OTT', 'PAG', 'PET', 'PST', 'RES', 'SBA', 'SBL', 'SFS', 'SHU', 'SIT', 'SJG', 'SOD', 'SPG', 'SPT', 'STJ', 'SUA', 'TAM', 'TDC', 'THL', 'THY', 'TSU', 'TUC', 'UPS', 'VIC', 'VNA', 'VSS', 'WIC', 'WNG']

Use IAGA_code to specify a particular observatory

Subset the collection with a special collection name like "SW_OPER_AUX_OBSM2_:<IAGA_code>" to get data from only that observatory:

request = SwarmRequest()
request.set_products(["IAGA_code", "B_NEC", "F", "Quality"])
data = request.get_between("2016-01-01", "2016-01-03")
ds = data.as_xarray()
Accessing INTERMAGNET and/or WDC data
Check usage terms at
Dimensions:     (Timestamp: 2880, NEC: 3)
  * Timestamp   (Timestamp) datetime64[ns] 2016-01-01 ... 2016-01-02T23:59:00
  * NEC         (NEC) <U1 'N' 'E' 'C'
Data variables:
    Spacecraft  (Timestamp) object '-' '-' '-' '-' '-' ... '-' '-' '-' '-' '-'
    F           (Timestamp) float64 5.33e+04 5.331e+04 ... 5.32e+04 5.32e+04
    Longitude   (Timestamp) float64 18.82 18.82 18.82 ... 18.82 18.82 18.82
    IAGA_code   (Timestamp) <U3 'ABK' 'ABK' 'ABK' 'ABK' ... 'ABK' 'ABK' 'ABK'
    Radius      (Timestamp) float64 6.36e+06 6.36e+06 ... 6.36e+06 6.36e+06
    Quality     (Timestamp) <U1 'D' 'D' 'D' 'D' 'D' 'D' ... 'D' 'D' 'D' 'D' 'D'
    Latitude    (Timestamp) float64 68.23 68.23 68.23 ... 68.23 68.23 68.23
    B_NEC       (Timestamp, NEC) float64 1.074e+04 1.716e+03 ... 5.198e+04
    Sources:         ['SW_OPER_AUX_OBSM2__20160101T000000_20160101T235959_010...
    MagneticModels:  []
    RangeFilters:    []

Magnetic models can be evaluated at the same time

The VirES API treats these data similarly to the Swarm MAG products, and so all the same model handling behaviour applies. For example, we can directly remove the CHAOS core and crustal model predictions:

request = SwarmRequest()
    models=["'CHAOS-internal' = 'CHAOS-Core' + 'CHAOS-Static'"],
data = request.get_between("2016-01-01", "2016-01-03")
ds = data.as_xarray()
Accessing INTERMAGNET and/or WDC data
Check usage terms at
ds["B_NEC_res_CHAOS-internal"].plot.line(x="Timestamp", col="NEC")
<xarray.plot.facetgrid.FacetGrid at 0x7f57122a9f10>

(This roughly shows the disturbance sensed by the observatory due to the magnetospheric and ionospheric sources)

Data visualisation

Three observatories over a year

Let’s run through a visualisation of one year of hourly means from three observatories.

First fetch the data from our chosen observatories across the UK: LER (Lerwick), ESK (Eskdalemuir), HAD (Hartland). We can apply a few optional settings to reduce unnecessary output:

  • verbose=False to disable the data terms message

  • asynchronous=False to enable synchronous processing on the server - it will be slightly faster but only works for smaller data requests

  • show_progress=False to hide the progress bars

  • We can also drop the unused Spacecraft variable when we load the data

request = SwarmRequest()
request.set_collection("SW_OPER_AUX_OBSH2_:LER", verbose=False)
data = request.get_between("2013-01-01", "2014-01-01", asynchronous=False, show_progress=False)
ds_ler = data.as_xarray().drop("Spacecraft")

request = SwarmRequest()
request.set_collection("SW_OPER_AUX_OBSH2_:ESK", verbose=False)
data = request.get_between("2013-01-01", "2014-01-01", asynchronous=False, show_progress=False)
ds_esk = data.as_xarray().drop("Spacecraft")

request = SwarmRequest()
request.set_collection("SW_OPER_AUX_OBSH2_:HAD", verbose=False)
data = request.get_between("2013-01-01", "2014-01-01", asynchronous=False, show_progress=False)
ds_had = data.as_xarray().drop("Spacecraft")

Now our data is in three objects which look like this:

Dimensions:    (Timestamp: 8760, NEC: 3)
  * Timestamp  (Timestamp) datetime64[ns] 2013-01-01T00:30:00 ... 2013-12-31T...
  * NEC        (NEC) <U1 'N' 'E' 'C'
Data variables:
    Radius     (Timestamp) float64 6.362e+06 6.362e+06 ... 6.362e+06 6.362e+06
    Longitude  (Timestamp) float64 358.8 358.8 358.8 358.8 ... 358.8 358.8 358.8
    Latitude   (Timestamp) float64 59.97 59.97 59.97 59.97 ... 59.97 59.97 59.97
    B_NEC      (Timestamp, NEC) float64 1.487e+04 -616.8 ... -561.9 4.862e+04
    Sources:         ['SW_OPER_AUX_OBS_2__20130101T000000_20131231T235959_0131']
    MagneticModels:  []
    RangeFilters:    []

We can quickly preview the data using the xarray plotting tools:

ds_ler["B_NEC"].plot.line(x="Timestamp", col="NEC", sharey=False)
<xarray.plot.facetgrid.FacetGrid at 0x7f57129bc0d0>

Let’s make a more complex figure to display data from all three observatories together. We can use matplotlib directly now to create the figure and pass the xarray objects to it to fill the contents. Note that we slice out a particular vector component with e.g. ds_ler["B_NEC"].sel(NEC="N").

fig, axes = plt.subplots(nrows=3, ncols=3, figsize=(15, 5), sharex="all", sharey="row")
for i, NEC in enumerate("NEC"):
    axes[i, 0].plot(ds_ler["Timestamp"], ds_ler["B_NEC"].sel(NEC=NEC))
    axes[i, 1].plot(ds_esk["Timestamp"], ds_esk["B_NEC"].sel(NEC=NEC))
    axes[i, 2].plot(ds_had["Timestamp"], ds_had["B_NEC"].sel(NEC=NEC))
    axes[i, 0].set_ylabel(f"B ({NEC}) [nT]")
axes[0, 0].set_title("LER: Lerwick (60.0°N)")
axes[0, 1].set_title("ESK: Eskdalemuir (55.1°N)")
axes[0, 2].set_title("HAD: Hartland (50.8°N)")

This shows us the difference in the main field between these locations - further North (Lerwick), the field is pointing more downwards so the vertical component (C) is stronger. We can also see a small secular variation over the year as the field changes.