The Lagrangian point L1 is situated about 1.5 million kilometers sunwards from Earth and provides a unique orbiting point for satellites, placing them constantly upstream in the solar wind, allowing for prediction of solar wind conditions impacting Earth's magnetosphere. Short-term forecasting of geomagnetic activity requires extrapolation of solar wind data from L1 to Earth (typical propagation time around 1 hour), as does any research in interactions between the solar wind and the magnetosphere during intervals when no Earth-orbiting satellites are in the solar wind. To accurately predict propagation delays it is necessary to take the geometry of incoming solar wind structures into account. Estimating the orientation of solar wind structures currently has to be done using single satellite measurements, which will likely remain the case for another decade or more, making it important to optimize single satellite techniques for solar wind propagation. In this study a comprehensive analysis of 8 different single satellite propagation methods was performed, each involving several variable parameters. 4 of these used electric field calculations and had not previously been tested for solar wind propagation. Large amounts of data were propagated from a satellite near L1 to target satellites near Earth for comparison to measured data, using specific test scores to evaluate relative performance between methods and parameter values. Electric field methods worked well for continuous data but did not predict arrival time of discontinuities (abrupt transitions) as accurately as methods based on magnetic field data, one of which delivered the best results on all accounts. This method had also been found to give best results in a previous study, but optimal parameter values were significantly different with the larger data set used here. Propagating 6,926 discontinuities it was found that on average they arrive about 30 seconds later than predicted (about 1% of the propagation time). Barring a systematic error in velocity data or delay calculations the offset suggests an asymmetry in the geometry of solar wind structures. While this idea is physically plausible it was not unambiguously supported by the data.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2013
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