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Space weather forecasting: Defining the observational requirements

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Owens
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Hazards resulting from space weather -- variability in the near-Earth space environment –are part of the UK’s National Risk Register. The UK Met Office has been charged with monitoring and, ultimately, forecasting such risks. Although the Met Office is now running space-weather forecasting models in an operational environment, such efforts rely on available observations from existing platforms, primarily science missions, which are not always sufficient for forecasting purposes .This project is aimed at assessing the observational requirements for dedicated operational space-weather missions in order to most improve future forecasting ability.

The most severe geomagnetic storms are triggered by the arrival of a coronal mass ejection (CME) in near-Earth space. Our
understanding of the geomagnetic impact of CMEs is predominantly based on ~20 years of spacecraft observations. Given the enormous range of event-to-event variability, it is difficult to separate and quantify the importance of individual CME properties on their effects at Earth (i.e., its “geoeffectiveness”). The first half of the project will address this issue via a novel approach. Synthetic CME observations
will be used with magnetospheric simulations, allowing us to isolate the geomagnetic effect of various CME properties. E.g., is it more important to determine a CME’s speed or precise trajectory relative to Earth? For a given magnetic field strength, what orientation of the CME is most geoeffective and by how much? How does geoeffectiveness depend upon the prior state of the magnetosphere?

The second half of the project will focus on the best observing location for an operational space weather spacecraft. Current mission proposals are considering locating a spacecraft either along the Earth-Sun line (as this allows sampling of the solar wind which will subsequently arrive at Earth) or behind the Earth in its orbit (to monitor co-rotating solar wind structures ahead of their arrival at Earth). Observing from locations remote from Earth (within orbital and hardware limitations) gives the greatest forecast lead times, but potentially creates a problem, as solar wind structures will also have longer to evolve prior to their arrival at Earth and/or be deflected from the Earth-Sun line. Using the current fleet of well-separated spacecraft in the solar wind, the student will quantify the spatial and temporal coherence of solar wind structures to optimise forecast lead-time and accuracy.

The project will be co-supervised by Clare Watt and Chris Scott, University of Reading, Department of Meteorology.

The full project description is available at http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/pg-research/owens_2016.pdf

Funding Notes

Project available for students with their own funding. To apply for this PhD project please visit www.met.reading.ac.uk/pg-research/pgrapplications.html

This project would be suitable for students with a degree in physics, applied mathematics or a closely related physical or environmental science. The student will not be expected to have a space weather background.

How good is research at University of Reading in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 75.68

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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