Research

HAO Science

...from the Sun's interior to the Earth's atmosphere

The High Altitude Observatory, through its collaboration with scientists and scientific organizations around the world is recognized as one of the premier authorities of Sun and Sun-Earth studies.

Tightly integrated activities between HAO's scientific staff and its Instrumentation Group (engineering team) strengthen its core program, and in turn yield a variety of exciting results in the scientific exploration of the Sun and the influences it exerts on the terrestrial atmosphere and climate.

The scientific program of HAO is solar-terrestrial physics, broadly interpreted. Included is solar physics, physics of the heliosphere, the study of geospace and space weather, and the physics of the Earth's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.

Research Highlights

The Extended Solar Cycle: Muddying the Waters of Solar/Stellar Dynamo Modeling Or Providing Crucial Observational

Graph depicting extended solar cycles
Monday, December 3, 2018

In 1844 Schwabe discovered that the number of sunspots increased and decreased over a period of about 11 years, that variation became known as the sunspot cycle.

The Effect of Small-Scale Magnetic Structures on Inferred Solar Continuum Brightness

Graph depicting average intensity of magnetic structures as a function of width (a) and equivalent radius (b)
Monday, December 3, 2018

Solar irradiance models indicate that irradiance variations are dominated by changes in disk-coverage of magnetic structures, whose brightness is thought to be determined by their size and average magnetic flux density.

The long-term trends of nocturnal mesopause temperature and altitude revealed by the Na lidar observations between 1990 and 2018 at mid-latitude

Graph showing WACCM-X (2.0) simulated summer temperature profiles of year 1974 and year 2003
Sunday, December 2, 2018

The nighttime mesopause, marking the boundary of mesosphere and thermosphere and having the coldest atmospheric temperature, is formed mainly by the combination of radiative cooling by CO2, and the adiabatic flow in the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere.

Pitch angle scattering of energetic electrons by bursty bulk flows (BBFs)

Pitch angle scattering of electrons in high resolution LFM fields
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mary Hudson and others have studied field line curvature scattering by the magnetic field structure associated with Bursty Bulk Flows (BBFs), using simulated output fields from the Lyon‐Fedder‐Mobarry (LFM) global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) code for specified solar wind input.

The eruption of a prominence carrying coronal flux rope forward synthesis of the magnetic field strength measurement by COSMOS

(a) The inferred line-of-sight (LOS) magnetic field B_LOS obtained from the forward synthesis of the circular polarization signal from the MHD model data at a time during the quasi-static phase of the flux rope; (b) The same as (a) but only show the pixels of the measured B_LOS with sufficient signal to noise ratio; (c) The axial field strength in the mid cross-section of the flux rope; (d) The 3D field lines of the coronal magnetic field as view
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation of the eruption of a prominence hosting coronal flux rope, Yuhong Fan and others carry out forward synthesis of the circular polarization signal (Stokes V signal) of the FeXIII emission line at 1074.7 nm produced by the MHD model.

On the variability of the semidiurnal solar and lunar tides of the equatorial electrojet (EEJ)

Plot showing EEJ obtained from Huancayo and Fuquene observatories
Friday, November 9, 2018

The variabilities of the semidiurnal solar and lunar tides of the equatorial electrojet (EEJ) are investigated during the 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2013 major sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) events in this study.

Transport of Internetwork Magnetic Flux Elements in the Solar Photosphere

Graph of displacement probability distributions
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The motions of small-scale magnetic flux elements in the solar photosphere can provide some measure of the Lagrangian properties of the convective flow.

Characterization of Cameras for the COSMO K-Coronagraph

Digital image sensors
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Digital image sensors are ubiquitous in astronomical instrumentation and it is well known that they suffer from issues that must be corrected for data to be scientifically useful.

Rotational and Activity Evidence for a Subgiant with a Sun-Like Cycle

Sun-like activity cycle of HD 81809 binary system in calcium HK emission
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

HD 81809 has one of the highest-quality activity cycles from the sample of stars synoptically observed in the Mount Wilson Observatory HK Project.

Retrieving Global Wilson Currents from Electrified Clouds using Satellite Passive Microwave Observations

Global total TRMM current
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Peterson et al. (2015) developed an algorithm for estimating the electric field vector at any point above an electrified cloud from passive microwave observations. 

Areas of Focus

A Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM)

The Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model with thermosphere and ionosphere extension (WACCM-X) is a comprehensive numerical model, spanning the range of altitude from the Earth’s surface to the upper thermosphere.

Assimilative Mapping of Ionospheric Electrodynamics (AMIE)

The AMIE procedure is an optimally constrained, weighted least-squares fit of electric potential distribution to diverse types of atmospheric observations. Knowledge of these distributions is important in many areas of magnetospheric, ionospheric, and thermospheric physics.

Challenges in Observing Short-term Tidal Variability

Modeling the upper levels of the Earth’s atmosphere, is one of the strengths of the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIME-GCM) supported as a community model by scientists at the High Altitude Observatory.

Coupled Magnetosphere Ionosphere Thermosphere Model (CMIT)

The Coupled Magnetosphere Ionosphere Thermosphere (CMIT) model consists of the Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry (LFM) model of the magnetosphere coupled to the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIE-GCM).

Data-Optimized Coronal Field Model (DOCFM)

DOCFM is an NCAR/CfA collaboration that is funded by AFOSR to model the global coronal magnetic field using magnetometric and other observations, with the goal of improving space weather forecasts of magnetic orientation within c

FORWARD Model

The FORWARD model is a suite of IDL and fortran codes that calculates simulated coronal polarization signals from numerical and analytical models of the corona.

Global Airglow Model

The GLobal airglOW model, also known as GLOW, is a toolkit of subroutines and driver programs for performing calculations of optical emissions in the upper atmosphere, particularly the thermosphere and ionosphere, above about 100 km altitude.

Global Scale Wave Model (GSWM)

The GSWM solves the linearized and extended Navier-Stokes equations for steady-state global temperature and wind perturbations. GSWM may be used to calculate an "unforced" planetary wave response for a specified period and zonal wavenumber, or the thermally-driven response for either a diurnal or semidiurnal atmospheric tide.

LYON-FEDDER-MOBARRY (LFM) GLOBAL MHD CODE

The LFM Code is an integrated simulation model for the global magnetosphere-ionosphere system. The heart of the model is a time-dependent, ideal MHD calculation of the state of the magnetosphere.

Thermosphere Ionosphere Electrodynamic General Circulation Models (TGCMs)

The NCAR TGCM's are three-dimensional, time-dependent models of the EARTH's neutral upper atmosphere.

Fabry Perot Interferometer at Resolute Bay, Canada

Resolute, Canada (75N) is the site chosen for the deployment of the National Science Foundation Advance Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR). AMISR is a state of the art phase array radar, which allows fast electronic steering of the radar beam to track fast moving auroral features.

Fabry-Perot Interferometer at Boulder, Colorado

On March 16, 2012, a Fabry-Perot Interferometer (FPI) was installed at the NCAR Marshall field site, just to the south-east of Boulder, to observe thermospheric and mesospheric winds.

Fabry-Perot Interferometer at Palmer, Antarctica

The Palmer station Fabry-Perot interferometer project is funded by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. The goal is to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere over the Antarctica Peninsula. Palmer station is an year-around US Antarctica Research station located on the Anvers Island near the Antarctica Peninsula.

HiWind

HiWind was the first balloon borne Fabry-Perot interferometer designed to measure summer time polar cap thermospheric neutral winds. Thermospheric wind measurements are critically needed for space weather research. HiWind was launched June 14, 2011 from Kiruna, Sweden.

Mauna Loa Solar Observatory

The Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) has been operating since the mid-1960s, providing a nearly-continuous record of solar data to the community. MLSO data includes white light corona, emission corona, H-alpha (disk and limb), He-I, and photometric.

The Community Spectro-polarimetric Analysis Center (CSAC)

CSAC provides a suite of community resource tools for analysis of the precision polarization data for remote sensing of magnetic fields in the outer solar atmosphere.

Collaborating with Fudan University

HAO Senior Scientist Philip Judge spent three weeks at China's Fudan University in October 2015. As an official Visiting Researcher, Philip worked with his host Roger Hutton, and recent graduate Wenxian Li, on magnetically sensitive emission lines formed in the solar corona.

Coupling, Energetics and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR)

CEDAR is a national and international research program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to study the Earth's upper atmosphere. The emphasis is on the energetic and dynamical processes that determine the composition and structure of the atmosphere, and the coupling between different regions.

Preparing for the 2017 total Eclipse

On 21 August 2017 a total solar eclipse will pass across the continental United States, from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina on the east. The eclipse will be a phenomenal experience for the millions of people who see it, but it also offers a unique opportunity to conduct scientific research of the solar atmosphere.

The Community Spectro-polarimetric Analysis Center (CSAC)

CSAC provides a suite of community resource tools for analysis of the precision polarization data for remote sensing of magnetic fields in the outer solar atmosphere.

A TIEGCM Simulation of the Anomalous Electron Heating Effect on the E-region Ionosphere

In the ionospheric E-region, the electrons are magnetized because their frequency of rotation around the magnetic field is much greater than their frequency of collisions with the neutrals. Thus, the electrons drift mostly perpendicular to the electric fields.

CME Initiation, Evolution, and Interplanetary Consequences

HAO scientists have carried out 3D isothermal MHD simulations of the evolution of the large scale coronal magnetic field as a twisted magnetic flux tube is driven (slowly) through the lower boundary into a pre-existing coronal arcade field.

Coronal and Heliospheric Evolution

The magnetic field in the Sun's atmosphere continuously evolves through processes of emergence, diffusion, and reconnection, resulting in ongoing reorganizations of the global coronal/helio- spheric magnetic morphology, as well as in the slow buildup of magnetic energy in twisted or sheared magnetic fields.

Impact of Energetic Particles on the upper Atmosphere

Energetic particles, namely electrons and protons, released from the magnetosphere cover a wide range of energies from a few electron volts (eV) to hundreds of milli-electron volts (MeV).

Long-Term Solar Variability

HAO scientists pursue an interdisciplinary, system-wide view on the origins and impacts of solar and stellar cycle variation, with a particular focus on magnetic minima as times of low activity and relatively simple heliospheric structure.

Magnetic Flux Emergence

Understanding the process of magnetic flux emergence through the solar convection zone is crucial for understanding the link between the observed magnetic activities at the surface and the dynamo-generated magnetic fields in the interior.

Modeling high-speed flows in the Earth’s Magnetotail

The magnetosphere is created by the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field. On the dayside of the Earth pressure from the solar wind compresses the Earth’s dipole magnetic field and on the night side this interaction stretches it out forming a region of space commonly referred to as the magnetotail.

Satellite Drag Physical Modeling for Transition to Operations

The ionosphere and upper atmosphere play a major role in space operations, including communications, navigation, and satellite drag. Satellite drag, the drag force exerted by the tenuous upper atmosphere on orbiting bodies, is the leading cause of error in predicting the locations of objects in low-Earth orbit.

Solar Convecton and Mean Flows

Any inquiry into the ultimate origins of solar magnetic activity must soon confront turbulent thermal convection. Convection is a means by which the Sun shines. Energy liberated by nuclear fusion deep in the core of the Sun filters outward by the diffusion of photons.

Studying Atmosphere Coupling Using Mesoscale-resolving WACCM

An important pathway for the terrestrial weather to affect the space weather is through atmosphere waves, such as atmospheric tides, planetary waves and gravity waves. The impacts of the planetary-scale waves have been extensively studied observationally and numerically.

Sunspots and Photospheric Dynamics

Sunspots are the most prominent manifestations of magnetic field in the visible layers of the solar atmosphere. Their origin is a dynamo process operating in the solar convection zone.

The Sun as a Dynamo

The ultimate origins of solar variability lie below the visible surface, where turbulent convection, differential rotation, and meridional flows work together to produce magnetic fields through the operation of a stellar dynamo, giving rise to the 22-year solar magnetic cycle.