Virtual Space Weather Modelling Centre
What is the VSWMC?
Space weather covers a wide range of physical domains embedded in the heliosphere. Starting from the interior of the Sun outward to the photosphere, then through the solar corona and the solar wind into interplanetary space, reaching out to the boundary of the heliosphere with interstellar space, space weather phenomena determine the environment of all Solar System objects. Of particular interest are the immediate environments of magnetized and non-magnetized planets and moons. Space weather often focuses on Earth, its magnetosphere, ionosphere, and upper atmosphere, quite evidently because of the technological implications. Space weather is driven to a large extent by the Sun, but also by planetary atmospheres, interstellar and even intergalactic space (cosmic rays), and involves neutral matter (gas, dust) and ionized plasma (from low to extremely high energies). Our theoretical understanding of the physical and chemical phenomena that occur in the heliospheric arena is reflected in the construction of models. For the sake of clarity, the term “model” is used here not to refer to a particular physical or numerical model, but to a computer implementation thereof. Such models are able to describe one or more properties of one or more subdomains of this hugely complex space weather environment.
The broad range of physical mechanisms encountered in the space environment requires a large set of models, each of which is adequate to describe the specific conditions found in a particular region of the solar system. Because of the mutual interaction between the different phenomena, it becomes ever more evident that our understanding of the space environment requires that our know-how be combined. This implies a “coupling” of models: describe various subsystems at the same time, and take into account their interaction. One important type of coupling is that in which descriptions of the space environment are coupled with models that describe the effects of this environment on human technology or the human body: these are the space weather effects that engineers and policymakers are worried about because of their societal relevance.
Bringing together models in order to couple them, that is the goal of the Virtual Space Weather Modelling Centre (VSWMC).
In phase 1 (2012-2014), a proof-of-concept prototype version was developed of an open end-to-end (= from Sun to Earth) space weather modelling system (“Virtual Space Weather Modelling Centre”), enabling to combine ("couple") various space weather models in an integrated tool, with the models located either locally or geographically distributed, so as to better understand the challenges in creating such an integrated environment, and at the same time providing proof-of-concept solutions to these challenges.
This is believed a viable roadmap to secure the development of a future complete VSWMC.
In the currently ongoing project (2016-2018), the VSWMC will be furhter developed building on the Phase 1 prototype system and focusing on the interaction with the SSA SWE system. The main goals are:
- Efficient integration of new models and new model couplings, including a first demonstration of an end-to-end simulation capability.
- Further development and wider use of the coupling toolkit and the front-end GUI which will be designed to be accessible via the SWE Portal.
- Availability of more accessible input and output data on the system and development of integrated visualization tool modules.