Two current rings have been observed in the equatorial plane of the earth at times of high geomagnetic activity. An eastward current exists between about 2 and 3.5 earth radii (Re) distant, and a larger, more variable companion current exists between about 4 and 9 Re. These current regions are loaded during geomagnetic substorms. They decay, almost exponentially, after the cessation of the particle influx that attends the solar wind disturbance. This review focuses upon characteristics needed for intelligent use of the ring current as a source for induction probing of the earth's mantle. Considerable difficulties are found with the assumption that Dst is a ring-current index. ?? 1990 Birkha??user Verlag.