What Is HAARP?

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is the world’s most capable high-power, high frequency (HF) transmitter for study of the ionosphere.  The principal instrument is the Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI), a phased array of 180 HF crossed-dipole antennas spread across 33 acres and capable of radiating 3.6 megawatts  into the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.  Transmit frequencies are selectable in the range of 2.7 to 10 MHz, and since the antennas form a sophisticated phased array, the transmitted beam can take many shapes, can be scanned over a wide angular range and multiple beams can be formed.  The facility uses 30 transmitter shelters, each with six pairs of 10 kilowatt transmitters, to achieve the 3.6 MW transmit power.


What Is HAARP Used For?

The goal of the research at HAARP is to conduct fundamental study of the physical processes at work in the very highest portions of our atmosphere, called the thermosphere and ionosphere.  This research falls into two categories (1) active, which requires the use of the Ionospheric Research Instrument and (2) passive, which only uses monitoring instruments.

The ionosphere starts at about 60 to 80 km altitude and extends up above 500 km altitude.  There are free electrons and ions in the ionosphere that radio waves can interact with.  HAARP radio waves heat the electrons and create small perturbations that are similar to the kinds of interactions that happen in nature.  Natural phenomena are random and are often difficult to observe.  With HAARP, scientists can control when and where the perturbations occur so they can measure their effects.  In addition, they can repeat experiments to confirm the measurements really show what researchers think they do.  


Why Was HAARP Developed?

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program began in 1990 as a congressional initiative to expand our knowledge of the earth's upper atmosphere and their effects on radio wave propagation. Particular emphasis was placed on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes.

Between 1990 and 2014, HAARP was a jointly managed program of the United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy.  Its goal was to research the physical and electrical properties of the Earth’s ionosphere, which can affect our military and civilian communication and navigation systems.


Who Owns HAARP?

For over 25 years, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) have collaborated on ionospheric research at HAARP.  When USAF funding for research and development decreased, efforts were made to find a solution to preserve this one-of-a-kind national research resource.

In August 2015, the research equipment was transferred to UAF under an Education Partnership Agreement (EPA).  To provide authority and management control to UAF, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was established.  CRADAs are unique agreements that provide access to extensive government-funded resources that can be leveraged to yield powerful results.  It is common practice for government agencies to transfer ownership of research equipment to universities for the continued support of science.  Responsibility for the HAARP facilities and equipment formally transferred from the military to UAF on Aug. 11, 2015.


How Does HAARP Work?

Scientists at HAARP use HF radio transmitters to heat small regions of the ionosphere and observe the effects (including ionospheric heating).  For traditional space research using ground-based observations or experiments on sounding rockets, it can take an extremely long time (days, weeks, even years) to get the desired natural overhead conditions.  Satellites can amass much larger databases but it is difficult to coordinate the satellite with the desired phenomena.  With a facility like HAARP, it is possible to perform an experiment at will to create plasma structures and irregularities, use the ionosphere like an antenna to excite low frequency waves, create weak luminous aurora-like glows and a variety of other experiments.


Why Is HAARP in Gakona, Alaska?

The land on which HAARP is built was originally acquired by the USAF to construct an over-the-horizon backscatter radar. The end of the Cold War in 1991 and changing funding priorities led to the cancellation of the radar before construction began.

The USAF selected Gakona, Alaska, as the location for HAARP because it met the site selection criteria of (1) being within the auroral zone, (2) near a major highway for year round access, (3) away from densely settled areas, electrical noise and lights, (4) on relatively flat terrain, (5) of realistic and reasonable construction and operational costs, and (6) minimal environmental impacts.


When Was HAARP Built?

Construction on the HAARP Research Station began in 1993.  The first functional facility was completed by the winter of 1994 with three passive, diagnostic instruments and an evaluation prototype HF transmitter consisting of 18 antenna elements with a net radiated power of 360 kW.  By 1999, HAARP had been developed to an intermediate level capable of high-quality ionospheric research with the addition of several additional instruments to the diagnostic suite and an improved HF transmitter with 48 antenna elements and a net radiated power capability of 960 kW.  Between 2003 and 2006, new instruments were added to the facility, including a UHF ionospheric radar and a telescopic dome for optical observations. Final buildout was completed in 2007, with the HF transmitter now consisting of 180 antenna elements having a net radiated power capability of 3,600 kW or 3.6 MW.


What Is a Research Campaign?

Research campaigns are developed to optimize logistics and personnel time by combining multiple experiments into a fixed time period.  Such campaigns are planned approximately six weeks in advance and occur three to four times per year.  Because of the variability of ionospheric conditions and solar terrestrial events, the actual times and frequencies for any given experiment within a campaign cannot be determined except in real time.

Between 1999 and 2014, over 20 major research campaigns and numerous shorter studies were conducted at the facility.  Operational campaigns ranged from 130 days (2008) to 15 days (2014).  

Since the site transfer in 2015, UAF has conducted ten research campaigns: (1) February 19-23, 2017; (2) September 21-25, 2017; (3) April 6-14, 2018, (4) July 30-August 1, 2018, (5) November 29 to December 3, 2018, (6) March 25-28, 2019, (7) June 2021, (8) October 11-28, 2021, (9) January 13-14, 2022, and (10) March 22-April 7, 2022. The next research campaign is October 2022.


Who Conducts Research at HAARP?

The scientists who may conduct research are university physicists and engineers, their students, government scientists, and scientists from commercial firms having an interest in the ionosphere and in communication and radio science theory and applications.  Several universities have played a major role in HAARP from its inception to the present time, including the University of Alaska, Stanford University, Penn State University, Boston College, Dartmouth University, Cornell University, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts, MIT, University of California Los Angeles, Clemson University and the University of Tulsa.  


What is SAGO?

SAGO is the Subauroral Geophysical Observatory for Space Physics and Radio Science, an NSF-funded observatory for the study of the near-Earth geospace environment. The centerpiece of the observatory is the HAARP facility, but also makes use of other equipment. The goal of SAGO is to observe and actively probe Earth’s upper atmosphere and geospace environment in the subauroral and auroral zones. SAGO is operated as a community research facility with routine operation of scientific diagnostic instrumentation and with the HAARP transmitters running in campaign mode periodically for a few days out of the year.


Can I Visit HAARP?

The HAARP Research Station does not employ sufficient on-site staff to allow routine tours of the facility.  UAF recognizes there is a great interest in the scientific work of the facility and the university continues the tradition of holding an annual open house when anyone is welcome to visit the site.


If I Have Further Questions, Who Can I Contact?

There are lots of ways to keep in touch with the HAARP Program.  We have a regular presence on both Facebook and Twitter, and have established both a public information phone line and e-mail address.

E-Mail:  UAF-GI-HAARP@alaska.edu

Phone:  907-474-1100

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/pg/UAFHAARP

Twitter:  @UAFHAARP


HAARP and the Military

Why Are There Still Air Force Signs Around HAARP?

The land that HAARP sits on still belongs to the USAF.  The mechanism to transfer the land is through legislative action, specifically, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  President Obama signed the fiscal year 2017 NDAA in December of 2016, which authorized approximately 1,158 acres and associated fixtures to transfer to the University of Alaska.  UAF is currently working with the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the conveyance action.  


Are There Military Members Assigned to HAARP?

No.  The research station is managed and operated by UAF in accordance with the agreements outlined in the CRADA.  


Is HAARP a Classified Project?

No, HAARP is not classified.  An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was conducted during 1992-1993 in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.  The environmental impact process documents have always been, and are now, a matter of public record.


Environmental Effects

Are There Any Long-term Effects of Ionospheric Heating?

No.  Since the ionosphere is inherently a turbulent medium that is being both stirred up and renewed by the sun, artificially induced effects are quickly obliterated.  Depending on the height within the ionosphere where the effect is originally produced, these effects are no longer detectable after times ranging from less than a second to 10 minutes.

A good analogy to this process is dropping a stone in a fast-moving stream.  The ripples caused by the stone are quickly lost in the rapidly moving water and are completely undetectable a little farther downstream.  A UAF Geophysical Institute scientist compared HAARP to putting an “immersion heater in the Yukon River.”


How Much Power Does HAARP Take From the Power Grid?

HAARP draws only housekeeping power, used for lighting, heating, and computers from the local power grid.  During research operations, HAARP runs on its own generators to operate the IRI.


Are There Health Hazards Associated with Electromagnetic Fields  Produced by HAARP?

The high power HF transmitter is a fixed system, and the field strengths associated with its antenna system decrease in a known methodical manner with distance from the antenna.  The rate of decrease is inversely proportional to distance, and the strength drops rapidly to levels typical of those encountered in the vicinity of AM/FM/TV broadcast stations.

Health and safety was a primary focus in the design of the HF transmitter and antenna array.  There are no locations on or off site where the electromagnetic  field exceeds safety standards for exposure as defined by IEEE/ANSI C95.1-1992 and NCRP Report No. 86.  In fact, the electromagnetic fields measured at the closest public access point are lower than those existing in many urban environments. The only points on the site that approach the electromagnetic safety standard are close to or directly under and over the antenna itself.  A fence around the antenna gravel pad encloses the limited area under the antennas where fields might exceed the standard. Outside this fence, the electromagnetic fields drop off very rapidly and are always below the standard. The closest public access point to the facility at the Tok Highway is about 3,000 feet from the antenna fence, and the field at this point has decreased to 10,000 times below the  standard.


Can HAARP Control or Manipulate the Weather?

No. Radio waves in the frequency ranges that HAARP transmits are not absorbed in either the troposphere or the stratosphere—the two levels of the atmosphere that produce Earth’s weather. Since there is no interaction, there is no way to control the weather.

The HAARP system is basically a large radio transmitter. Radio waves interact with electrical charges and currents, and do not significantly interact with the troposphere .  

Further, if the ionospheric storms caused by the sun itself don’t affect the surface weather, there is no chance that HAARP can either.  Electromagnetic interactions only occur in the near vacuum of the rarefied, but electrically charged region of the atmosphere above about 60-80 km (a little over 45 miles), known as the ionosphere.  The ionosphere is created and continuously replenished as the sun’s radiation interacts with the highest levels of the Earth’s atmosphere.


Can HAARP Exert Mind Control Over People?

No. Neuroscience is a complex field of study carried out by medical professionals, not scientists and researchers at HAARP.


Can HAARP Create Chemtrails?

No. The theory suggests, in part, that the contrails that form behind aircraft or rare clouds formations are chemical and/or biological agents being released on the general public.  This is not true. Contrails are produced by condensation from the exhaust of jet engines. Just as water coming from your car’s tailpipe condenses to produce ice fog on a cold Alaska winter morning, water from jet engines’ exhaust condenses in the very cold upper atmosphere.  

HAARP doesn’t produce water in the atmosphere, has no capability to release gases or liquids, and does not interact with existing water in clouds.



How Do Scientists Pay for Active Research at HAARP?

UAF is actively soliciting funding and proposals to use the facility, and operates on a pay-per-use model.  Agencies, either directly or through UAF and other universities, sponsor projects that utilize the facilities and are charged a rate that recovers both direct and indirect costs.  This concept is common in the research community.


Scientific Questions

Does the Ionospheric Research Instrument Operate Continuously?

No. The last active Ionospheric Research Instrument operations were completed in October 2022. Campaigns run similar to the USAF model, where groups of scientists collaborate to conduct interactive ionospheric research. A typical research period may last one to two weeks and up to four such campaigns may occur in a given year.


Where Can I Get Access to Real-time Data From HAARPs Passive Instruments?

Many passive scientific instruments at the ionospheric observatory operate continuously to monitor the natural geomagnetic environment.  Data collected by these instruments, like the Digisonde, are archived and made available to researchers and the public. See the Diagnostic Suite page. 


How Much Power Is Required to Operate the Ionospheric Research Instrument?

The IRI is able to produce approximately 3.6 MW of radio frequency power.  However, the HAARP transmitters have been designed to operate linearly so that they will not produce radio interference to other users of the radio spectrum.  To achieve that degree of linearity, the transmitters operate at an efficiency of only 45 percent.  For every 100 watts of input power, 45 watts of radio frequency power is generated.  Most of the rest is lost in the transmitter cabinet as heat.  (As an analogy, a 75-watt incandescent light bulb gets quite hot while it is producing the light you actually see.)  In addition, the five on-site diesel generators must provide power for other equipment used by the transmitters, including the cooling system and low-level amplifier stages.  As a result, approximately 10 MW of prime power are required when the transmitter is operating at full power.


Can HAARP Create an Artificial Aurora?

The natural aurora is created when very high-energy particles in a region of space known as the magnetosphere are swept toward the Earth’s magnetic poles and collide with gas molecules existing in the upper atmosphere.  The energy involved in this process is enormous and is entirely natural.

The energy generated at HAARP is so much weaker than these naturally occurring processes that it is incapable of producing the type of optical display observed during an aurora.  However, weak and repeatable optical emissions have been formed using HAARP (and reported in scientific literature) and observed using very sensitive cameras.


Can HAARP Be Used To Generate VLF or ELF, that is Very Low Frequency or Extremely Low Frequency Signals?

Yes.  However, the HAARP facility does not directly transmit signals in the VLF/ELF frequency range.  Instead, VLF/ELF signals are generated in the ionosphere at an altitude of around 100 km (more than 62 miles).  Frequencies ranging from below 1 Hz to about 20 kHz can be generated through this ionospheric interaction process.  


Where can I find publications about HAARP research?

Please see the Publications about HAARP Research, 1990–2010 page.


Other Questions

This Is All Very Confusing.  

We know!  Space physics isn’t an easy field of study.  Just as you experience the effects of short-term atmospheric changes as terrestrial weather (temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, visibility, etc.), the Sun and Earth also have their own unique interactions that also impact us.  Space weather is a relatively new field of science dedicated to the understanding of these connections and to the forecasting of solar flares, magnetic storms and other space-related phenomena.  The more we understand these interactions, the better we can prepare for their effects.

NOAA has a great website that describes space weather and ways it can affect different technologies on Earth.  We’ve copied some here for reference, but encourage you to check it out online for more information: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/impacts

Solar flares can produce strong X-rays that degrade or block high-frequency radio waves used for radio communication during events known as radio blackout storms.

Solar energetic particles (energetic protons) can penetrate satellite electronics and cause electrical failure.  These energetic particles also block radio communications at high latitudes during solar radiation storms.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can cause geomagnetic storms at Earth and induce extra currents in the ground that can degrade power grid operations.

Geomagnetic storms can also modify the signal from radio navigation systems (GPS and GNSS), causing degraded accuracy. Geomagnetic storms also produce the aurora. Space weather will impact people who depend on these technologies.


When Does UAF-GI Release Exact Campaign Dates?

Public release of specific campaign dates is usually made a few days prior to the start of the campaign.  Exact frequencies often are not determined until immediately before the individual experiment, due to the constantly changing nature of the ionosphere.


What Are the Accomplishments Of HAARP?

Research conducted at the HAARP is generally published in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, and Radio Science.  There is an extensive list of research articles that have been published by numerous researchers worldwide.  UAF has a publicly available bibliography for the years 1990 to 2010.


What Kind of Federal and State Permits and Licenses are Required at HAARP?

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) are the three major permitting and licensing organizations that support the HAARP Research Site.

The FCC licenses the Ionospheric Research Instrument.  To date, UAF has been approved for two experimental service licenses, both of which are a matter of public record.  The FAA specifies procedures to ensure safe corridors of air travel when the Ionospheric Research Instrument is operational.  During active research campaigns, a temporary flight restriction (TFR) is active over the HAARP site, and an associated Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is published.  ADEC manages air quality permitting for the HAARP power plant.  On July 25, 2016, HAARP was approved for a Title I Minor Air Quality Permit, which is also a matter of public record.


Does HAARP Have a Community Outreach Program?

Yes. HAARP has a rich history of community outreach under USAF and Navy management.  Over the years, HAARP has supported local summer schools, cooperative science programs, and conducted multiple open house events.  UAF is working on revitalizing educational outreach efforts both nationally and in the local area.