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Title: Improved description of Earth's external magnetic fields and their source regions using satellite data
Author: Shore, Robert Michael
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2013
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In near-Earth space, highly spatio-temporally variant magnetic fields result from solar-terrestrial magnetic interaction. These near-Earth external fields currently represent the largest source of error in efforts to model the magnetic field produced in the Earth’s interior. Starting in 1999, the Decade of Geopotential Field Research (Friis-Christensen et al., 2009) has greatly increased the amount of available low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite magnetic data. These data have driven many advances in field modelling, yet have highlighted that LEO measurements are particularly susceptible to contamination from external fields. This thesis presents a series of studies attempting to describe the external fields in more detail, in order that they can be more effectively separated from the internal fields in magnetic modelling efforts. A range of analysis methods, different for each study, are applied to satellite and ground-based observatory data. Mandea and Olsen’s (2006) method of estimating the secular variation (SV) of the internal field from satellite data via ‘Virtual Observatories’ (VOs) is applied to synthetic data from the upcoming Swarm constellation satellite mission of the European Space Agency. Beggan (2009) found VOs constructed from CHAMP satellite data to be contaminated with external field signals which appeared to have a significant local time (LT) dependence. I find that utilising the increased coverage of LT sectors offered by the Swarm constellation geometry does not significantly decrease the contamination. Following this surprising result I tested a wide range of methods aimed at reducing the VO contamination from each parameterised external field source region. In anticipation of future studies using real data, I used the results of the tests to provide a more complete description of the external field variations affecting analyses of geographically-fixed magnetic phenomena when using satellite data and spherical harmonic analysis (SHA). Ionospheric electric currents flowing at LEO altitudes are known to violate the assumption of measurements taken in a source-free space, required in SHA-based models of the magnetic field. In order to better describe the electromagnetic environment at LEO altitudes, I use data from the Ørsted and CHAMP satellites to calculate the current density from Amp`ere’s integral. Vector magnetic data from discrete overflights of the two satellites (at different altitudes) are rotated into the along-track frame to define the integral loop and its ‘surface area’, permitting estimation of the predominantly zonal current density flowing in the region between the two orbital paths. I designed selection criteria to extract geometrically-stable overflights spanning the range of LTs twice in the 6 years of mutually available satellite vector data. From these overflights I resolve current densities in the range 0:1 μA=m2, with the distribution of current largely matching the LT progression of the Appleton anomaly. I applied detailed tests to check for biases intrinsic to the method, and present results free of systematic errors. The results are compared with the predictions of the CTIP (Coupled Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Plasmasphere) model of ionospheric composition and temperature, showing a typically good spatiotemporal agreement. I find persistent current intensifications between geomagnetic latitudes of 30 and 50 in the post-midnight, pre-dawn sector, a region which has been previously considered to be relatively free of currents. External fields induce currents in the Earth’s conducting mantle, the magnetic fields of which add to the field measured at and above the Earth’s surface. The morphology of the long-period inducing field is poorly resolved on timescales of months to years, reducing the accuracy of mantle induction studies (a key part of the Swarm mission). I improve the description of its morphology via the method of Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOFs), which I apply to over a decade of ground-based observatory data. EOFs provide a decomposition of the spatiotemporal structures contained in the magnetic field data, with partitions arising from the data themselves, overcoming the relatively simplistic assumptions made about the inducing field morphology in LT. The results of vector data EOF analyses are presented, but I rely primarily on scalar analyses which are more fitting for this study. I overcome the limitations of the irregular observatory distribution with a novel spatial weighting matrix, combining the output from multiple EOF analyses to greatly improve the data coverage in LT. I find that the seasonal variation of the inducing field is more important than the variation of the symmetric ring current on annual periods, and that dawn-dusk asymmetry should be accounted for to increase the accuracy of mantle conductivity estimates based on data covering the decadal timescales of the solar cycle.
Supervisor: Whaler, Kathy; Curtis, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: external magnetic field ; ionosphere ; F-region ; satellite ; magnetosphere