Infrastructure or equipment

The main observations relevant to this project are carried out at the IRM/KMI Geophysical Research Centre ( in Dourbes, in the south of Belgium. A state-of-the-art digital ionosonde (DPS4D) was installed in April 2011 as a successor to previous ionosondes which have been in operation at the Centre for more than half a century, resulting in a comprehensive database of ionospheric observations. The Dourbes DPS4D boasts various advanced functionalities. It can be used for vertical soundings, providing high accuracy information about the density, height, and movement of the plasma above the station in the form of ionograms and skymaps. Additionally, by synchronising the observatories, oblique ionograms and skymaps can be produced, providing information about the ionosphere in a larger region. Currently, all parameters of the ionosphere are monitored continually with a time resolution of five minutes.

In the past, ionograms were only produced once every hour, and scaled manually. Today, soundings can be performed at a much higher rate, and the scaling is done automatically by dedicated software. Nevertheless, the hourly ionograms are still inspected and, if needed, corrected manually to ensure a time series of the best possible quality. Complementary to the ionosonde, two GNSS receivers have been installed at the same location in order to provide real-time monitoring of the Total Electron Content (TEC).

In addition, the Dourbes site is also home to a magnetic observatory, providing real time observations of the variations in the magnetic field. Combining the data from the ionosonde, the GNSS receivers, and the magnetometer, the research team has developed models for the monitoring of the space weather environment, especially the ionosphere, which can in turn be used as the basis for an alert system, warning users of disturbances in the ionosphere.