Space Weather at Climate & Space

Space Weather Warning – What to Look For

Once again, there’s a space weather storm warning issued by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.  There are accompanying news pieces, too; especially in states and areas that are more likely to see aurora.  Then, of course, there are some rather colorful pieces, too, that do not help the reader understand what will happen.

Overall, it’s really hard to get a handle on how big a storm is going to be before it happens.  This is true for scientists and the layperson as well.  As we wait for this storm to hit, here’s some things to look for as the storm approaches and begins:

Continue reading “Space Weather Warning – What to Look For”

Space Weather Research: 40 Years of M-I Coupling

A key area of study in space weather is magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, often abbreviated as M-I coupling.  This area deals with how the activities in the magnetosphere (the region of space where the Earth’s magnetic field dominates) and the ionosphere (the very top of the Earth’s atmosphere, where electrically neutral gasses are ionized by solar radiation).  These two regions physically couple in many ways.  Electric currents flow from the magnetosphere down into the ionosphere, causing gasses to circulate with the currents.  The ionosphere will resist and regulate the flow of electrical current and gas, changing the electric fields within the magnetosphere.  Plasma, or electrically charged gas, escapes from the ionosphere and populates the magnetosphere, changing mass content of near-Earth outer space.

Confusing?  It is, even to scientists.  M-I coupling is fundamental to understanding the characteristics and dynamics of space and space weather, but it is complicated, detailed, and heavily inter-dependent on many processes.  Scientists have been working on this topic for decades.  In 1974, a group of scientists sequestered themselves in Yosemite National Park with the goal of advancing their understanding of a hot new topic, M-I coupling:

Forty years later, in 2014, a second M-I coupling workshop was held at Yosemite National Park to see how our understanding has evolved over four decades.  It included many of the scientists who attended the first M-I workshop, and each block of talks was preceded by footage from the original workshop and remarks to add historical context to our work.  It was a unique experience of new and old; a singular conference where each presenter could see the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Continue reading “Space Weather Research: 40 Years of M-I Coupling”

Space Weather Workshop: Day 3

I’m back from the Space Weather Workshop and catching up after a week away.  I’ll keep posting my notes from the remainder of the workshop.

There is something about the day after the banquet night at any workshop.  Perhaps it’s because it represents the half-way point of the meeting.  Perhaps it’s because most people who had the responsibility of presenting are done and relieved.  Perhaps it’s just the after-effect of an evening of eating or drinking.  Whatever it is, the day after the banquet is always looser and more relaxed.  The energy is still there in the presentations and conversations, but everyone is more easy-going.  This sets the stage for another excellent day at the workshop. Continue reading “Space Weather Workshop: Day 3”

Space Weather Workshop: Day 2

I’m at the Space Weather Workshop, an annual meeting sponsored by the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. When it comes to interfacing space weather science, policy, applications and forecasting, this is THE meeting to be at. I’ll be posting updates summarizing each day.

Chigo Ngwira of NASA & Catholic University of America discusses extreme space weather impacts at Earth.

Day 2 picked up where Day 1 left off: with government agencies discussing how they can assist and lead Research-To-Operations (R2O) work within the field of space weather.  NASA had a strong presence in the morning session.  The NASA Living With a Star (LWS) program has a long history of funding space weather science, but are now changing their requirements to emphasize R2O.  Funded computer modeling projects will be increasingly expected to undergo data-model testing to help NASA and the community understand how code improvements are advancing our ability to forecast.  There was also a presentation from NASA’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC).  This is an organization that collects computer models from the community and makes them available to everyone via web interfaces.  CCMC is working to be a validation hub that helps the LWS program evaluate different models.  They have been working hard to create a set of metrics (numbers that score model forecasts) to achieve this task effectively.  The strong NASA presence was rounded out by talks from NSF, SWPC, and the Air Force. Continue reading “Space Weather Workshop: Day 2”

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