The Michigan Engineer News Center

Forecasting solar storms

To forecast potentially catastrophic space weather, NASA uses a software framework developed at the University of Michigan. | Short Read

Most of the time, the Sun’s continuous emission of magnetic energy and plasma has only a minimal effect on the Earth. However, occasionally a solar magnetic eruption can occur that sends a shock wave through our solar system. Should this shock wave impact our planet, many man made technological systems can be catastrophically damaged. To be better prepared, Michigan researchers are continuously developing and improving the Space Weather Modeling Framework. This software framework has the capability to model the solar wind emanating from the Sun all the way to its interaction with Earth’s magnetosphere and the impact on the surface of the Earth. As they detect and model the Sun’s behavior our ability to predict when a severe space weather event will happen is further improved, and we are also that much safer from the disasters that occur when our power grids, communication systems and satellites are disrupted by the effects of solar magnetic eruptions. Both NOAA and NASA have taken Michigan’s advanced simulation capability and adapted it to a real time space weather forecasting tool.

About the Researchers:

Research Professor Gabor Toth’s research interests include algorithm and code development for space and plasma physics simulations. He has a leading role in the development of the Space Weather Modeling Framework and is the developer of the BATS-R-US code, a multi-physics and multi-application MHD code using block-adaptive grids. Toth is also the software architect for the Center for Radiative Shock Hydrodynamics. The center’s work involves modeling radiative shocks created by high energy lasers.

Assistant Research Scientist Daniel Welling is a member of team that transitioned the Space Weather Modeling Framework from research to operations for NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The SWMF is now running in real-time mode on NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction supercomputers. Welling is also the leading researcher of the impact ionospheric outflow has on magnetospheric dynamics.

Research Associate Professor Ward Manchester’s research interests concern solar magnetism and magnetic flux transport from below the photosphere into the corona and through the heliosphere. Manchester has contributed to basic theory and modeling efforts with analytical work and large scale numerical simulations. Of particular interest to Professor Manchester are: magnetic flux emergence, magnetohydrodynamic instabilities, coronal mass ejection initiation and propagation, and global heliospheric structure.

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EJ Olsen
Marketing Communications Specialist

Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

(734) 548-3204

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  • Gabor Toth

    Gabor Toth

    Research Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

  • Daniel Welling

    Daniel Welling

    Assistant Research Scientist, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

  • Ward Manchester

    Research Associate Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

A simulation of the landing .

Sticking the landing on Mars: High-powered computing aims to reduce guesswork

As the Mars 2020 launch approaches, a separate effort is using simulations to understand landing dynamics for tomorrow's missions. | Medium Read