The Earth's magnetosphere as depicted by a computer model, showing a geomagnetic storm in January 1997.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of the Space Plasma Physics group (with help from the Advanced Visualization Laboratory) at University of Maryland.

Modeling Space Weather

Scientists who study space weather use models a lot. Just what is a model? It is a simplified way of looking at something very complicated. You may be familiar with a globe. It is a model of the Earth. It has some things that are the same as the actual Earth, like where continents are in relation to the oceans. But, it also differs in some ways - like size!

Scientists who study space weather use their computers a lot to make models of space weather. They fine tune their model each time they get new data.

That way, the models get better and better. They can even be used for forecasting and prediction of space weather events. For example, if we observe a big flare from the Sun, a model can predict what its impact will be near Earth. If need be, we can warn spacewalking astronauts, put satellites into "safe" modes, and look forward to great auroral lights.

Last modified January 27, 2010 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Instruments & Techniques for Space Weather Measurements

Even though the Sun is very far away, it has a big effect on Earth. It gives us warmth and light. Storms on the Sun can also bring about what scientists call space weather on Earth or near Earth (just...more

Solar Storms

You know that there are all kinds of storms here on Earth - thunderstorms, blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes. The Sunalso has storms. There are two different kinds of storms on the Sun. They are called...more

Solar Flares

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

How Space Weather Affects Human Society

It may seem strange to you, but space weather can affect people on Earth. Let's see how! Space weather "storms" can mess up radio waves. We use radios waves to communicate with airplanes, to send cell...more

How Scientists Study Space Weather

Scientists use different ways to study space weather. They use instruments in space like satellites and orbiting telescopes. Scientists also use instruments on Earth to study space weather. They use these...more

How do Satellites & Spacecraft Monitor Space Weather?

Satellites in space help us measure space weather. They collect info about the Sun, Earth's magnetosphere, Earth's atmosphere, and space weather. Spacecraft that Watch the Sun Some spacecraft watch the...more

The Sun and the Solar Atmosphere

Scientists have named the parts of the Sun. The "surface" of the Sun is called the photosphere. The three areas inside the Sun are called the core, the radiation zone, and the convection zone....more

How does Space Weather affect Life on Earth?

Earth's magnetic field is a shield that keeps most of space weather's effects where they belong; safely out in space! But space weather does effect life on Earth. Outside of the Earth's magnetic field,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA