Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are huge explosions that propel plasma and magnetic field away from the Sun. They are believed to be the primary cause of major geomagnetic storms. Predicting in advance whether observed CMEs hit the Earth and carry geo-effective magnetic fields is a long-term priority for the CCMC located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and other groups within NASA as well. Such predictions are very challenging, and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations are considered as the most promising tool for achieving them.
Our proposed interactive and highly automated MHD modeling framework, CORHEL-AMCG, will allow users to routinely model multiple observed CMEs in a realistic coronal and solar-wind environment. CORHEL-AMCG will be significantly more accurate than existing routine models, by accounting for the complexity of pre-CME configurations, the slow initiation of CMEs, and their interaction in interplanetary space. These advances will make CORHEL-AMCG extremely useful for the broader scientific community and constitute a major step towards operational space-weather forecasting. A prototype of CORHEL-AMCG (for modeling single CMEs in a simplified coronal environment) will be available upon completion of Phase I and will be delivered to the CCMC for testing.
The proposed work is directly relevant to NASA's NSWAP activities, as it will "provide increased understanding of the fundamental physics of the Sun-Earth system through modeling" by developing a tool that will allow researchers of the solar and heliospheric research communities to routinely model CMEs. Specifically, it will contribute to NASA's Research-to-Operations/Operations-to-Research (R2O/O2R) responsibilities in that it will aid the "preparation and validation of existing science models in preparation for transition to operations" and provide "ideas for future models tied to space weather forecasting needs", as stated in subtopic S5.06 of the Fiscal Year 2018 SBIR/STTR Research topics.
Routine CME-modeling tools currently tested at the CCMC (EEGGL and CORHEL-CG) have several limitations (simplified pre-eruptive state, unrealistic CME initiation, no interaction of CMEs). Once fully developed, CORHEL-AMCG will overcome these limitations and thus provide a more realistic and accurate framework for the routine modeling of CMEs. This will be of useful not only for the CCMC, but to other groups and efforts at NASA's Heliophyics division as well.
Accurate forecasts of CME impacts are of grave concern to many government and commercial entities. For example, NOAA provides space-weather information to a range of aerospace and infrastructure customers, and the Air Force closely monitors space weather for the military. The fledgling private launch services industry, such as SpaceX, may also wish to establish forecasting capabilities. Once we have developed CORHEL-AMCG for NASA, we can address the needs of these customers as well.