High Performance Computing Enables Modeling of Space Storms

Dr Robert Rankin is a specialist in space physics at the University of Alberta, and one of the heads of the university’s Space Weather Program. He is the driving force behind magnetic storm research in Canada and works extensively with the Canadian Space Agency. Rankin and his colleagues are presently involved with a new project to set up a Canada-US Center for Data Assimilation and Modelling (CDAM). This collaborative research project involves the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Michigan, and the University of Alberta

.Rankin and his colleagues are creating magnetic storm simulations in hopes of discovering the key to understanding particle instabilities and disturbances found within the Earth’s magnetosphere. Rankin hopes that space weather research collaboration will aid in achieving the research group’s ultimate goal to give space scientists the ability to forecast space weather disturbances.

The Earth’s magnetosphere is a dynamic region of space which envelopes the planet like a giant teardrop. This spherical layer is constantly bombarded by streams of fast-moving particles ejected from the surface of the sun. Researching these particle disturbances takes a tremendous amount of computing power to simulate conditions of this nature. The MACI initiative provides this computing power, allowing Rankin and his colleagues the ability to study the formation of magnetic storms and sub storms in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and surrounding regions of space.

Rankin is emphatic about the importance of MACI in relation to his research. Parallel computing is essential when it comes to running large 3D models, and if Rankin’s group did not have the MACI infrastructure, the cost would be too large for the Canadian Space Agency alone. Without first class computing facilities Rankin observes that his group would be unable to carry out this research.


Selected Publications

  I. Voronkov, J.C. Samson, E. Friedrich, R. Rankin, V.T. Tikhonchuk, and E.F. Donovan. On the Distinction Between, and the Relevance of, Auroral Breakup and Substorm Expansive Phase Onset, Proc. 5th International Conference on Substorms, St. Petersburg, Russia, 16-20 May 2000, ESA SP-443, July, 2000.

  R. Rankin and V. T. Tikhonchuk. Electron Kinetic Effects in Dispersive Shear Alfven Waves in the Dipolar Magnetosphere, Phys. Plasmas, 7, 2630-2645, 2000.

  R. Rankin, F.R. Fenrich, and V.T. Tikhonchuk. Shear Alfven Waves on Stretched Magnetic Field Lines near Midnight in Earth's Magnetosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 27, 27, 3265-3268, 2000.

  I. Voronkov, R. Rankin, J. C. Samson, and V. T. Tikhonchuk. Shear Flow Instability in the Dipolar Magnetosphere, J. Geophys. Res., 104, 17323-17334,1999.

  R. Rankin, J.C. Samson, and V.T. Tikhonchuk. Parallel Electric Fields in Dispersive Shear Alfven Waves in the Dipolar Magnetosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 3601, 1999.