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Swedish Institute of Space Physics (59°50.272′N, 17°38.786′E)
Student project at IRF Uppsala

Student Project (30 c)/Examensarbete (30 hp) [MSc thesis]

Modeling Coronal Mass Ejections

Student: Elisabeth Werner, Uppsala University
Supervisor: Emiliya Yordanova
Period: Spring 2018


Most geoeffective Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are usually most difficult to forecast. These events are commonly complex transients because they have been formed by the interaction between consequent CMEs or a CME with non-homogeneous solar wind during their propagation in the interplanetary space. By the time they reach L1 their initial properties, like propagation speed, direction and magnetic field structure have been significantly altered leading to over- or underestimation of their arrival time and geoeffectivity.


The objective of this case study is to test the performance of the heliospheric propagation model: WSAEnlil+Cone against that of the newly developed EUFHORIA model for the source of the remarkably complex ejecta (3 interacting CMEs) on 2017 September 6-8 observed at L1. Several runs will be made for which variables like the initial velocity, time of merging and/or the shape of the cone is subject to change. [Simulation graphics]
Example of ENLIL simulations of coronal mass ejections into the solar system.


Three CMEs which erupted on 2017 Sep 4 and 6 underwent mutual interaction before reaching Earth on Sep 6-9, where it gave rise to a complex and unexpectedly geoeffective structure as detected by WIND at L1. The spacecraft first observed an interplanetary (IP) shock on Sep 6 followed by a turbulent sheath. The leg of the CME flux rope is detected on Sep 7, in which clear signatures of a shock-in-a-cloud can be distinguished, coming from the third CME which propagated into the preceding flux rope. We model the source of this complex ejecta with WSA-ENLIL+Cone and EUHFORIA to assess and compare the overall performance for interacting CMEs as opposed to single CME events.

We find that following the conventional algorithm for determination of input parameters give large deviation in the event prediction at L1. The overestimated density of the IP shock 1 is due to the way of implementation of the magnetogram in WSA model. Excluding the slow CME from the input leads to even larger deviation. The prediction of IP shock 1 drastically improves by introducing of a customized density enhancement factor (dcld) based on coronagraph image observations. This novel approach, is simple and accessible, and could be applied to improve the forecast for fast, undisturbed CMEs. The deviation in the prediction of IP shock 2 comes from its interaction with the low proton temperature environment of the preceding magnetic cloud, giving rise to an expansion of the shock front. Additionally, the properties of the background solar wind plasma have been preconditioned by passage of the previous IP shock. This was confirmed from the kilometric type II radio burst emission following the eruption of the third CME. The propagation profile of this CME implies an almost non-existent deceleration in the interplanetary medium, in contrast to the expected CME deceleration due to interaction with the background plasma.

In summary, this study presents clear indications that magnetic interaction must be taken into account to reliably forecast multiple CME events. Preconditioning of previous CMEs must also be considered in more depth, and ultimately requires a realistic, time-dependent model of the ambient solar wind which responds well to propagating shock waves. Models in space physics presents us with the perfect tools for understanding not only the physical processes that the simplified models can predict, but perhaps more importantly, help us begin to understand what the models fail to predict.


Final report
last modified on Thursday, 09-May-2019 09:32:17 CEST