CME Ensemble Forecasting – A Primer

Friday, 19 December 2014
Victor J Pizzo1, Curt A de Koning1,2, Michele D Cash3, George H Millward2, Douglas Alan Biesecker4, Mihail Codrescu5, Lawrence Puga4 and Dusan Odstrcil6, (1)NOAA Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)CIRES, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)NOAA Boulder, SWPC, Boulder, CO, United States, (5)SWPC/NOAA, Boulder, CO, United States, (6)George Mason University Fairfax, Fairfax, VA, United States
SWPC has been evaluating various approaches for ensemble forecasting of Earth-directed CMEs. We have developed the software infrastructure needed to support broad-ranging CME ensemble modeling, including composing, interpreting, and making intelligent use of ensemble simulations. The first step is to determine whether the physics of the interplanetary propagation of CMEs is better described as chaotic (like terrestrial weather) or deterministic (as in tsunami propagation). This is important, since different ensemble strategies are to be pursued under the two scenarios. We present the findings of a comprehensive study of CME ensembles in uniform and structured backgrounds that reveals systematic relationships between input cone parameters and ambient flow states and resulting transit times and velocity/density amplitudes at Earth. These results clearly indicate that the propagation of single CMEs to 1 AU is a deterministic process. Thus, the accuracy with which one can forecast the gross properties (such as arrival time) of CMEs at 1 AU is determined primarily by the accuracy of the inputs. This is no tautology – it means specifically that efforts to improve forecast accuracy should focus upon obtaining better inputs, as opposed to developing better propagation models. In a companion paper (deKoning et al., this conference), we compare in situ solar wind data with forecast events in the SWPC operational archive to show how the qualitative and quantitative findings presented here are entirely consistent with the observations and may lead to improved forecasts of arrival time at Earth.