UNCG Geography

Environmental Magnetism

Environmental Magnetism: the use of natural and induced magnetic properties of earth materials to solve environmental problems.




There are several types of magnetic measurement useful for solving environmental problems. The most common are:


Magnetic Susceptibility – the “magnetizability” of a substance, measured by its reaction to placement in a weak magnetic field.


Frequency dependent susceptibility – the percent or absolute difference in magnetic susceptibility between measurements made in low and high-frequency fields.


SIRM – Saturation Isothermal Remanent Magnetization -  the strength of magnetic field held by a substance after being placed in a high magnetic field, then removed from it. SIRM may be combined with susceptibility measurements to provide more specific information on the magnetic nature of a substance than either measure alone can provide.





Current environmental magnetism equipment available within the UNC-Greensboro Geography Department includes:


Bartington MS2 magnetic susceptibility meter


Bartington MS2B dual frequency sensor


Bartington MS2D search loop sensor with probe handle (for spatially distributed field survey in archaeology, geomorphology and soil mapping)


Bartington MS2E high resolution surface-scanning sensor (for detailed core layering studies)


Bartington MS2G small sample sensor


ASC Scientific IM-10 impulse magnetizer


MOLSPIN Minispin portable fluxgate spinner magnetometer





Applications of environmental magnetism include:


Studies of fluvial and lacustrine sediment, sediment source tracing and erosion,






Soil mapping and erosion assessment,





Magnetic remote sensing of archaeological sites, and the analysis of artifacts.

Magnetism has been used in archaeological surveying for many years at many locations around the world. UNCG archaeologists and geographers are currently applying magnetic and other remote sensing techniques to the mapping and analysis of a local site containing several occupation phases beginning with the early Revolutionary Period. The site is believed to be a fallback position for Nathanael Greene’s army following the retreat from his famous battle with Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse.


Airborne particulate pollution

UNCG geoscientists are not currently involved in magnetics -based research on air pollution. Research elsewhere has demonstrated the ability to delineate airborne particulate plumes downwind of emissions sites by magnetic analysis of ground surface samples. Potential graduate students interested in pursuing this or any other application of enviromagnetics are encouraged to seek admission to the program. Please contact Dr. Royall for further information.