Background electromagnetic noise characterization: the role of external and internal Earth sources

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Antonio Meloni
Cesidio Bianchi
Giuliana Mele
Paolo Palangio


The Earth is surrounded by the ionosphere and magnetosphere that can roughly be seen schematically as two concentric shells. These two composed and inhomogeneous structured shells around the Earth selectively affect electromagnetic (EM) waves propagation. Both ionosphere and magnetosphere interact also with particles and waves coming from external sources, generating electromagnetic phenomena that in turn might become sources of EM waves. Conversely, EM waves generated inside the ionosphere remain confined at various altitudes in this region, up to a so-called critical frequency limit, depending on frequency, EM waves can escape out of the ionosphere and magnetosphere or get through. The EM waves generated inside the magnetospheric cavity mainly originate as a result of the electrical activity in the atmosphere. It is well known that also man-made sources, now widely spread on Earth, are a fundamental source of EM waves; however, excluding certain frequencies employed in power distribution and communication, man-made noise can be dominant only at local scale, near their source. According to recent studies, EM waves are also generated in the Earth’s lithosphere; these waves were sometimes associated with earthquake activity showing, on the Earth’s surface, intensities that are generally orders of magnitude below the background EM noise. In this review paper, we illustrate EM waves of natural origin and discuss their characterization in order to try discriminate those of lithospheric origin detectable at or near the Earth’s surface.

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How to Cite
Meloni, A., Bianchi, C., Mele, G. and Palangio, P. (2015) “Background electromagnetic noise characterization: the role of external and internal Earth sources”, Annals of Geophysics, 58(3), p. G0330. doi: 10.4401/ag-6745.
Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism