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Geomagnetically Induced Currents generated by Space Weather Events (CENTA2-PHYS9-IMBE)

Project Description

Geomagnetically-induced currents (GICs) are induced at the Earth’s surface due to rapid changes in the geomagnetic topology caused by the interaction of the planetary magnetic field with the solar wind. These currents have been shown to have a damaging impact on a range of modern infrastructure from power grid stability and oil pipeline corrosion to railway signalling failures, with observed disruption from the equator to high latitudes (e.g. Canon et al., 2015). Estimates have placed the UK GDP loss caused by the disruption from a once-in-a-century space weather event between £0.9 and 15.9 billion (depending on the level of investment in instrumentation and forecasting capabilities)

GICs are driven by extreme solar wind events, and as such their occurrence is strongly influenced by the solar activity cycle. Cycle 24 was considered to be relatively weak, but still contained eight major storms (KP 8- or above), including the much-studied St Patrick’s Day storm of 2015. Solar cycle 25 began in 2019 and has been predicted to be of the same magnitude as the previous cycle. While there is a link between solar activity and GICs, there are several mechanisms by which GICs are induced, and the variables characterising the location and intensity of the GICs are not well-understood.

A variety of studies have focussed on the measurements of GICs in power grids both at high latitudes and the equatorial region, however these have largely been case-studies of the intense storms of the last solar cycle, as well as theoretical predictions for extreme events (see Figure 1). In this project we will be investigating the full range of event magnitudes (looking at the temporal evolution, intensity and spatial extent), and putting these into the global context using global field-aligned current data taken by a constellation of orbiting satellites, and chains of ground-based magnetometers.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Physics Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.


Beggan, C. D., D. Beamish, A. Richards, G. S. Kelly, and A. W. P. Thomson (2013), Prediction of extreme geomagnetically induced currents in the UK high-voltage network, Space Weather, 11, 407–419, doi:10.1002/swe.20065.

Carter, B. A., E. Yizengaw, R. Pradipta, J. M. Weygand, M. Piersanti, A. Pulkkinen, M. B. Moldwin, R. Norman, and K. Zhang (2016), Geomagnetically induced currents around the world during the 17 March 2015 storm, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 121, 10,496–10,507, doi:10.1002/2016JA02334

Freeman, M. P., Forsyth, C., & Rae, I. J.(2019). The influence of substorms onextreme rates of change of the surfacehorizontal magneticfield in the UnitedKingdom.Space Weather,17,827–844.

Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (2008),

Canon et al., 2015, Extreme space weather: impacts on engineered systems and infrastructure,

Oughton et al., A Risk Assessment Framework for the Socioeconomic Impacts of Electricity Transmission Infrastructure Failure Due to Space Weather: An Application to the United Kingdom, Risk Analysis, 2019,

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