The K-index quantifies disturbances in the horizontal component of earth’s magnetic field with an integer in the range 0–9 with 1 being calm and 5 or more indicating a geomagnetic storm. It is derived from the maximum fluctuations of horizontal components observed on a magnetometer during a three-hour interval.
The official planetary Kp-index is derived by calculating a weighted average of K-indices from a network of geomagnetic observatories. Since these observatories do not report their data in real-time, various operations centers around the globe estimate the index based on data available from their local network of observatories. The Kp-index was introduced by Bartels in 1939.
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