Space Weather Modeling
A cluster of sunspots appears on the sun.
Will there be a giant eruption of matter, a coronal mass ejection?
Will the disturbance reach earth? When? What effect will it have
on communication systems, power lines, and astronauts in space?
Being able to answer these questions—precisely
and definitively—is an important goal for scientists working
on space weather models. Like all computer models, space weather
models simulate real physical systems—the sun, the solar
wind, the earth’s magnetosphere—using actual data,
theoretical mathematics, or both.
But modeling space weather is tricky. That’s
because it results from the interplay of various physical systems
that are themselves complex and incompletely understood. In the
end, reality is the test. If a model behaves something like its
real-life counterpart, then scientists know they are on the right
Until recently, most space weather modeling efforts
focused on just one part of the sun-earth system. Now the focus
is on piecing these various models together. The Center for Integrated
Space Weather Modeling (CISM) is a collaboration of scientists
working to tie together existing space weather models—like
these shown here—to create a single, comprehensive model
stretching from the sun to the earth and beyond.