Near real-time ionospheric monitoring over Europe at the Royal Observatory of Belgium using GNSS data

Various scientific applications and services increasingly demand real-time information on the effects of space weather on Earth\textquoterights atmosphere. In this frame, the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) takes advantage of the dense EUREF Permanent GNSS Network (EPN) to monitor the ionosphere over Europe from the measured delays in the GNSS signals, and provides publicly several derived products. The main ROB products consist of ionospheric vertical Total Electron Content (TEC) maps over Europe and their variability estimated in near real-time every 15 min on 0.5\textdegree \texttimes 0.5\textdegree grids using GPS observations. The maps are available online with a latency of ~3 min in IONEX format at and as interactive web pages at This paper presents the method used in the ROB-IONO software to generate the maps. The ROB-TEC maps show a good agreement with widely used post-processed products such as IGS and ESA with mean differences of 1.3 \textpm 0.9 and 0.4 \textpm 1.6 TECu respectively for the period 2012 to mid-2013. In addition, we tested the reliability of the ROB-IONO software to detect abnormal ionospheric activity during the Halloween 2003 ionospheric storm. For this period, the mean differences with IGS and ESA maps are 0.9 \textpm 2.2 and 0.6 \textpm 6.8 TECu respectively with maximum differences (>38 TECu) occurring during the major phase of the storm. These differences are due to the lower resolution in time and space of both IGS and ESA maps compared to the ROB-TEC maps. A description of two recent events, one on March 17, 2013 and one on February 27, 2014 also highlights the capability of the method adopted in the ROB-IONO software to detect in near real-time abnormal ionospheric behaviour over Europe. In that frame, ROB maintains a data base publicly available with identified ionospheric events since 2012.
Year of Publication
Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate
Number of Pages
Date Published