This special issue of Earth, Planets and Space, synthesizes the efforts made during the construction of the twelfth generation of the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF-12) that was released online in December 2014 (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/IAGA/vmod/ igrf.html). The IGRF-12 is a series of standard mathematical models describing the large scale internal part of the Earth’s magnetic field between epochs 1900.0 and 2015.0 with a forecast to epoch 2020.0. This activity has been maintained since 1968 by a working group of volunteer scientists from several international institutions but grew out from discussions started in the early 1960s (Barton, 1997). The IGRF task force operates under the auspices of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy/Association Internationale de Géomagnétisme et d’Aéronomie (IAGA/AIGA), which is one of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics/Union Internationale de Géodésie et Géophysique (IUGG/UIGG), an “international organization dedicated to advancing, promoting, and communicating knowledge of the Earth system, its space environment, and the dynamical processes causing change” (http://www.iugg.org/).
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