The ocean wave dynamo: a source of magnetic field fluctuations

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J. Watermann
A. Magunia
M. Gambetta
E. Bozzo


The alternating magnetic dynamo field of sea surface waves, a consequence of their Lorentz electric field, has been observed with a pair of simultaneously operated, closely spaced tri-axial magnetometers. Measurements from a magnetometer located in the centre of a tiny, uninhabited island served to compensate measurements from a near-shore magnetometer for magnetic pulsations of ionospheric origin, leaving the ocean wave dynamo field, effective close to shore only, as the dominant residual magnetic field. Amplitude and frequency of waves and swell were recorded with a vertical accelerometer (wave rider buoy) floating nearby on the sea surface. A spectral analysis was performed on ten nighttime intervals of three hours length each, and for every interval, the peak power of the surface waves (obtained from the wave rider) was compared with the peak power of the residual horizontal magnetic field (after the background field had been removed). The results suggest that the dual-sensor magnetic field observations yield, within the limits of statistical significance, a good quantitative description of the amplitude and frequency of sea surface waves and swell.

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Watermann J, Magunia A, Gambetta M, Bozzo E. The ocean wave dynamo: a source of magnetic field fluctuations. Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 1998Nov.25 [cited 2021Oct.21];41(3). Available from:

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