Space Weather

Cover image for Vol. 12 Issue 6

Impact Factor: 1.37

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2012: 34/56 (Astronomy & Astrophysics); 43/76 (Geochemistry & Geophysics); 46/74 (Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences)

Online ISSN: 1542-7390

Associated Title(s): Space Weather Quarterly

New tool improves forecasts of coronal mass ejections

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs)—explosions of plasma from the Sun that propagate outward in the solar wind—can, if they reach Earth’s environment, cause geomagnetic storms and adversely affect satellites, GPS, and other technology. A recently developed analysis tool, currently in operational use at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), helps predict whether a CME will affect Earth’s environment and, if so, when the CME will arrive at Earth. The new technique significantly improves real-time estimates of the CME’s size, speed, and direction of travel, parameters that are then used as inputs into a comprehensive numerical model of the heliosphere, running operationally at the National Weather Service.

These parameters had previously been inferred from coronagraph images solely from the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. However, Millward et al. found this single viewpoint analysis to be problematic in real-world situations. To help resolve the issues, they developed a new three-dimensional graphics-based analysis tool at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center that reduces inaccuracies by analyzing a CME using coronagraph images from SOHO and, concurrently, NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft. This new tool improves determination of CME parameters and is already contributing to better space weather forecasts.

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