First Large-Scale, Physics-Based Space Weather Model Transitions Into Operation

Provides forecasters with one-to-four-day advance warning of ‘solar storms’

Graphic showing the coronal mass ejection as a gray cloud in the lower right.
A coronal mass ejection (CME) in a model; the CME is the gray cloud toward the lower right.
Credit and Larger Version

From NSF:

The first large-scale, physics-based space weather prediction model is transitioning from research into operation.

Scientists affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM) and the National Weather Service reported the news today at the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) meeting in Seattle, Wash.

The model will provide forecasters with a one-to-four day advance warning of high speed streams of solar plasma and Earth-directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These streams from the Sun may severely disrupt or damage space- and ground-based communications systems, and pose hazards to satellite operations.

CISM is an NSF Science and Technology Center (STC) made up of 11 member institutions. Established in 2002, CISM researchers address the emerging system-science of Sun-to-Earth space weather.

The research-to-operations transition has been enabled by an unprecedented partnership between the Boston University-led CISM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

“It’s very exciting to pioneer a path from research to operations in space weather,” says scientist Jeffrey Hughes of Boston University, CISM’s director. “The science is having a real impact on the practical problem of predicting when ‘solar storms’ will affect us here on Earth.”

The development comes in response to the growing critical need to protect the global communications infrastructure and other sensitive technologies from severe space weather disruptions.

This transition culminates several years of close cooperation between CISM and its partner organizations to integrate, improve and validate a model for operational forecast use.

“This milestone represents important scientific progress, and underscores the effectiveness of NSF’s Science and Technology Centers in applying research results to real-world problems,” says Robert Robinson of NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds CISM.

CISM team members worked on-site with scientists and forecasters at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center to improve models and visualizations.

Having key team members co-located during this critical phase of development enabled an ongoing discussion between forecasters and scientists that enhanced the development of the model, says Hughes, and ultimately led to NOAA’s decision to bring it into operation as the first large-scale physics-based space weather model.

CISM’s research and education activities center on developing and validating physics-based numerical simulation models that describe the space environment from the Sun to the Earth.

The models have important applications in understanding the complex space environment, developing space weather specifications and forecasts, and designing advanced tools for teaching, Hughes says.

CISM partners include the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center, and the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

The lead model developers for the work are CISM team members Dusan Odstrcil of George Mason University and Nick Arge of the Air Force Research Lab.

-NSF-

Graphic showing space weather modeling.

This Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling display will be used to predict space weather.Credit: NOAA click to enlarge

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33 Responses to First Large-Scale, Physics-Based Space Weather Model Transitions Into Operation

  1. This is a marvelous tool.

  2. vukcevic says:

    Magnetic clouds (CME) could be best candidate for creating an electro-magnetic feedback loop within the heliosphere. For some years now I (in minority of one) have been suggesting such possibility, but my ideas although consistently being shot down by the experts, finally may find a ‘resonance’ within the latest discoveries.
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/LFC5.htm

  3. TFNJ says:

    Crikey, do you mean to say that I didn’t need to buy that 1956 Buick you recommended a year or two back?

  4. Jimbo says:

    Talking of models and the weather here is something from the BBC yesterday.
    —-

    “Davos 2011: Why do economists get it so wrong?”
    “Think how difficult it is to predict the weather. Overall, though, weathermen do ok, because they know their limits; they look four or five days ahead, but not much more.

    Economists, in contrast, have to make long-range predictions. To make matters worse, like weathermen, economists rely on mathematical models. And here’s the flaw, argues Robert Shiller, economics professor at Yale University.
    ……………………..
    It’s different for economists. Their models are based on what used to happen, but the ingredients of the economy – humans, resources, wars, natural disasters, technology etc – change constantly.

    The economic profession got too much in love with its models,” says Professor Shiller.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12294332

    BBC, take heed.

  5. Very interesting. Are you adding this to the Solar Images and Data page? It seems that its metrics are medres and that it has brought in the Sumerian sky deity Enlil. What is happening? ;)

  6. Baa Humbug says:

    I see a pattern here.

    The wags don’t know enough about Earths climate, so they create computer models to predict climate.
    They don’t know enough about space weather, so they create computer models to predict space weather.

    Well, I hope it works, because a quiet sun may mean some big flares are on their way (IMHO)

  7. Rich says:

    Good grief! “is transitioning”? What’s wrong with “is moving” or even “is going”?

  8. Martinb says:

    I’m praying that they didn’t buy this from our UK Met Office.

  9. Henry Galt says:

    So. If we see “The Big One” heading our way will government (any one of them) turn everything off to preserve it, or what? If Canada knew days in advance, for example, would they shut down those parts of the grid (above granite) that caused disruption last time?

    Graham Stringer (again) to the UK parliament, in 2009, on some wiseacre(s) setting ground-based solar terrestrial physics funding to £0.00

    http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Commons/ByDate/20090609/westminsterhalldebates/part003.html

  10. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 12:56 am
    Magnetic clouds (CME) could be best candidate for creating an electro-magnetic feedback loop within the heliosphere. For some years now I (in minority of one) have been suggesting such possibility, but my ideas although consistently being shot down
    And for good reason as they are unphysical. The solar wind is 11 times supersonic, so no such feedback happens.

  11. Mike Haseler says:

    Jimbo says:
    Economists, in contrast, have to make long-range predictions … BBC, take heed

    The BBC have really shot themselves in the foot over the global warming scam. They gave up any pretence at honest reporting and ended up siding with the loosing team. Worse, the kind of people they upset were the natural BBC supporters … the sober contemplative inquiry people that used to value the BBC.

    I think that is why there was little objection to the first massive cut in the BBC budget, and I doubt there will be much to the other cuts that are in the pipeline.

    Hopefully this’ll give them the chance to rid themselves of the Pc-Eco-Nutter-Nannies (aka PENNs)!

  12. Dave Springer says:

    Good deal. Hurricanes are modeled successfully enough to save lives and property while limiting unneccessary costly precautions and evacuations . This should fall along those lines. Not needed quite as often as hurricane prediction to be sure but a massive CME can be vastly more destructive than any hurricane potentially causing many millions of deaths and trillions in economic loss if one severely damages the electrical grid in an industrialized country.

  13. AlanG says:

    Step 1: Decide your conclusion (see the Charney report 1979)
    Step 2: Conduct the research (ongoing)

    That’s climate scientists for you

  14. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 2:33 am
    The solar wind is 11 times supersonic, so no such feedback happens.

    Supersonic yes but outside the ‘flux rope’. All indications in available literature is that solar wind surrounds but does not intrude within or interrupt the magnetic ‘flux rope’. Case appear to be the other way around, magnetic cloud slowly ploughs its way trough much faster solar wind structure. http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/prediction/cloud_movie.gif
    As long as there is an electric current within ‘magnetic cloud/flux rope’ while CME travels to the edge of the heliopause (NASA video Magnetic cloud ) possibility of a feedback can’t be dismissed so lightly, and certainly not on basis that solar wind is faster, since they don’t mix.

    Recent observations indicate that magnetic field lines of magnetic clouds do remain connected to the Sun [Larson et al., 1997]. nrl.navy.mil/prediction/storms.html
    &…that the electrical current and the magnetic field are parallel and proportional in strength everywhere within its volume. Lepping et al
    Hironori Shimazua,b,c, MotohikoTanaka: A flux rope requires a large electric current to maintain its magnetic field…..
    A.A. van Ballegooijen, E.E. DeLuca: The high conductivity of plasma implies that the electric currents can be maintained for a long period of time.
    More details here:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/LFC5.htm

  15. LazyTeenager says:

    Jimbo quotes
    ——–
    The economic profession got too much in love with its models,” says Professor Shiller.”

    ——–
    I tend to take emeritus professor pronouncenents with a grain of salt.” Computers are no good because we didn’t use them when I was a lad, yada yada”

    However Shiller wrote “Irrational Exuberance” and has studied economic bubbles. I guess you guys are feeling the pinch now for not taking his warnings seriously.

    I think you guys should read it and then draw some parallels between economic and energy bubbles.

  16. Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 2:33 am
    possibility of a feedback can’t be dismissed so lightly, and certainly not on basis that solar wind is faster, since they don’t mix.
    The cloud is also supersonic. Once the cloud has left the Sun, it lives for a year before finally hitting the heliopause. There is no current flowing from a point on the Sun along the field lines for a year. The currents are local, like for the HCS. We have gone over this often enough.

  17. Carla says:

    vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 4:39 am
    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 2:33 am
    The solar wind is 11 times supersonic, so no such feedback happens.

    Supersonic yes but outside the ‘flux rope’. All indications in available literature is that solar wind surrounds but does not intrude within or interrupt the magnetic ‘flux rope’. Case appear to be the other way around, magnetic cloud slowly ploughs its way trough much faster solar wind structure.
    ~
    This is getting weird guys. I was just thinking that. In the case of interstellar space the clouds are moving, but I find no indication of the fields moving with them. Exception the frozen in stuff that can hang there for millions of years. But of course there are broken lines, and islands or magnetic carperts .. ah .. what else..?

    Multiple auroral arcs.. was interesting did you see that Vuks? Now the two northern flux patches make more sense. Well, such that my sense of it is. lol I wonder if the north magnetic pole variation depends on which one is getting it and when.
    Check out slide 28 Vuks on the power point presentation. Way cool stuff.
    “””Ionospheric convection response to high-latitude reconnection and electrodynamics of a split-transpolar aurora””” (University of Leicester, 2006) [.ppt]
    http://lasp.colorado.edu/~eriksson/

    Also this technical on the EVENT.
    “””Electrodynamics of a split-transpolar aurora
    S. Eriksson,1 G. Provan,2 F. J. Rich,3 M. Lester,2 S. E. Milan,2 S. Massetti,4 J. T. Gosling,1
    M. W. Dunlop,5 and H. Re`me6
    Received 14 July 2006; accepted 21 September 2006; published 23 November 2006.
    1. Introduction
    ..[2] Single and multiple auroral arcs are often observed at
    very high latitudes during northward interplanetary magnetic
    field (IMF) conditions [Lassen and Danielsen, 1978;
    Burke et al., 1982; Carlson et al., 1988; Valladares et al.,
    1994]. Such arcs are generally aligned in the Sun-Earth
    direction and they are typically caused by precipitating
    electrons with <2 keV average energy.."""
    http://lasp.colorado.edu/~eriksson/2006JA011976_eriksson.pdf
    Vuks your polar fields graph is a bit disturbing to me lately.

    And Doc your input is invaluable even when your playing with us. Hello hello

    Brain is trying to get wrapped around a parbolic Exclusion Layer or Boundary.. wracked let it go now..be back..

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 12:52 am
    This is a marvelous tool.
    ~
    More cool tools..

  18. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 2:33 am
    The solar wind is 11 times supersonic, so no such feedback happens.

    Case appear to be the other way around, magnetic cloud ploughs its way trough solar wind structure.
    S. Dasso, C.H. Mandrini, P. D´emoulin, and M.L. Luoni : Because the MC (macnetic clowd) is faster than the surrounding solar wind and their magnetic fields form a large angle (anti-parallel in the scheme), reconnection is forced in front of the MC.
    http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/prediction/cloud_movie.gif
    http://ej.iop.org/images/0004-637X/622/2/1225/Full/fg3a.jpg

  19. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 4:39 am
    A.A. van Ballegooijen, E.E. DeLuca: The high conductivity of plasma implies that the electric currents can be maintained for a long period of time.
    This just means that you can’t get rid of the magnetic field and the current. They persist [being dragged out through the solar system] long after [a year] the short-lived explosive driving current in the corona ejecting the CME has disappeared. There is no ‘back reaction’ as the whole thing is supersonic many times over.
    Try to draw in your ‘currents’ on http://nsf.gov/news/mmg/media/images/space_weather2_f1.jpg

  20. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:22 am
    The currents are local, like for the HCS.

    You statement contradicts what appear to be accepted science. You are just not prepared to accept that science is marching on:
    http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/prediction/cloud_movie.gif
    Recent observations indicate that magnetic field lines of magnetic clouds do remain connected to the Sun [Larson et al.,]
    http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/prediction/storms.html
    And magnetic field lines of magnetic clouds do remain connected to the Sun are result of electric current:
    Hironori Shimazua,b,c, MotohikoTanaka: A flux rope requires a large electric current to maintain its magnetic field…..
    http://ase.tufts.edu/cosmos/pictures/Sept09/Fig8_7.MagCloud.gif
    No current no magnetic field, no flux rope; so flux rope exists as long as the current lasts and flux rope goes all the way to heliopause.
    A.A. van Ballegooijen, E.E. DeLuca: the high conductivity of plasma implies that the electric currents can be maintained for a long period of time in a flux rope.

  21. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:33 am
    Case appear to be the other way around, magnetic cloud ploughs its way trough solar wind structure.
    Lots of structures plough through the solar wind simply because the Sun is rotating, e.g. Corotating Interaction Regions. They all [including clouds] move at speeds in the range 300-700 km/sec. The Alfven speeds in the structures are about 10 times smaller. How you can make that be ‘other way around’ beats me. Explain.

  22. Carla says:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:26 am
    Brain is trying to get wrapped around a parbolic Exclusion Layer or Boundary..
    Try to tone down the weirdness a bit.

  23. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 7:38 am
    You statement contradicts what appear to be accepted science. You are just not prepared to accept that science is marching on:
    No current no magnetic field, no flux rope; so flux rope exists as long as the current lasts and flux rope goes all the way to heliopause.

    It is the other way around, the magnetic field is maintaining the current locally, just like for the HCS. There is no current flowing from the Sun for a year along the cloud all the way to the heliopause and back again.

    A.A. van Ballegooijen, E.E. DeLuca: the high conductivity of plasma implies that the electric currents can be maintained for a long period of time in a flux rope.

  24. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    …………..

    I think you got many things wrong there, quote is clear enough:
    Hironori Shimazua, MotohikoTanaka: A flux rope requires a large electric current to maintain its magnetic field…..

    L.S. They all [including clouds] move at speeds in the range 300-700 km/sec. The Alfven speeds in the structures are about 10 times smaller. How you can make that be ‘other way around’ beats me. Explain.

    You are also wrong about that too:
    Themis space mission has found that changes propagate far in excess of the Alfven speeds:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Aurora.htm
    Reconnection at the tail of magnetosphere (thousands of km away) lights-up aurora only one minute later, while one minute ‘Alfven speed trajectory’ is only 2400km (60 x 40km/sec).
    Tesla is correct about propagation of electro-magnetic changes, while ‘Alfven’ is wrong once again.

    Carla says:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:26 am
    Check out slide 28 Vuk on the power point presentation. Way cool stuff

    It looks to me as the ‘filed aligned current’ zapping the Arctic directly.
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC.htm
    Usual way is the induction from ring current. Direct current hit must be far more powerful, it would have been helpful if there were long-lat coordinates.

  25. pochas says:

    Leif:

    Those arched structures visible near the solar surface are magnetic flux ropes, are they not? If not, how would you characterize them?

  26. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 9:20 am
    I think you got many things wrong there, quote is clear enough:
    Hironori Shimazua, MotohikoTanaka: A flux rope requires a large electric current to maintain its magnetic field…..

    The paper does not deal with magnetic clouds at all.
    In general it is the magnetic field and the plasma movements that determine the current and the electric field and not the other way around.

    Themis space mission has found that changes propagate far in excess of the Alfven speeds
    That paper has been withdrawn by its authors. The classical picture was correct after all.

    Tesla is correct about propagation of electro-magnetic changes, while ‘Alfven’ is wrong once again.
    Tesla did not know about MHD.

    pochas says:
    January 28, 2011 at 9:27 am
    Those arched structures visible near the solar surface are magnetic flux ropes, are they not? If not, how would you characterize them?
    No, they are just ordinary field lines illuminated by plasma stuck on them.

  27. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 9:40 am
    That paper has been withdrawn by its authors. The classical picture was correct after all.

    What paper? I just updated my web page
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Aurora.htm
    with the link from NASA with details of the event clearly quoting 60sec.

  28. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 10:55 am
    with the link from NASA with details of the event clearly quoting 60sec.
    The current disruption model is out of favor, and reconnection rules.
    In the magnetosphere the Alfven speed is large [because B is large], typically 500 km/sec, and even larger when the tail is loaded up with field [energy stored before a substorm].

  29. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    January 28, 2011 at 11:19 am
    The current disruption model is out of favor, and reconnection rules.

    Reminds of the AGW: Natural climate change is out of favour, and CO2 rules.
    But also the Alfven velocity is reversely proportional to the total energy density of plasma particles, which is high at reconnection.
    Seems to me another case of adjusting theory as required for purpose of the argument.

  30. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 11:58 am
    The current disruption model is out of favor, and reconnection rules.
    This is what the Themis group themselves assert.

    But also the Alfven velocity is reversely proportional to the total energy density of plasma particles, which is high at reconnection.
    The Alfven speed is proportional to the magnetic field strength and inversely proportional to the square root of the density. These parameters vary a lot within the magnetosphere. Near the Earth [out to 10 radii] the speed is very high, 50,000 km/sec, falling to about 100 km/sec way down the tail. A typical median speed is about the 500 km/sec I quoted.

    Seems to me another case of adjusting theory as required for purpose of the argument.
    Just telling you what the physics is.

  31. vukcevic says:

    And what do you make about space ribbon untangling itself?
    http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/?media_id=18750415
    You said it CR and galactic field do not vary over short period of few months. Since solar wind was low during last 2 years, I suggest heliopause is pushed against bow shock boundary by a CME.

  32. John_in_Oz says:

    I’m delighted by the idea of producing useful models.
    I’ll be interested to learn if they can achieve their goal. Until recently the Global Climate Models used grid cells of hundreds of kilometers. More recently supercomputer advances produced the ability to model with smaller gridcells. A report I read on the internet but can’t relocate after a hard disk crash, indicated that the oucome of models with finer gridcells was significantly different to that of the coarser models. I particularly regret the loss since I understood the finer models to be less alarmist than the earlier models.
    Given the enormously greater surface area of the sun compared to earth, the gridcells must be correspondingly larger. I’m not deluded into thinking they are modelling the same phenomena, but if terrestrial weather systems are a reasonable analogue to solar, then it seems the forecasts must suffer in similar fashion for the same reasons.

  33. vukcevic says:
    January 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm
    And what do you make about space ribbon untangling itself?
    Because of solar rotation plasma is emitted at different speeds in any given direction. Faster wind will scoop up slower wind and corotating shocks will form that will steepen as they move outwards. In the outer reaches of the heliosphere we will then get a series of high-density and high-field ‘pancakes’ where the pressure that they will exert varying by a factor of a hundred or more. The heliopause is thus buffeted from the inside as the interstellar medium does not vary on a human time scale. Anything that cause a speed differential contributes to this buffeting. At low solar activity the major contribution is the recurrent sector structure, while at solar maximum CMEs are responsible for most of the shocks. The high-density shocks ‘paint’ the heliopause in a pattern that reflects their recurrence. The shocks also scatter cosmic rays and thus are responsible for most of the variation in GCR intensity that we observe, as we explained long ago http://www.leif.org/EOS/Nature/262766a0.pdf so near solar minimum the CME contribution is very minor, the dominant features being the corotating structures.

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