Scientists Create Models to See How Things Work

Sun ModelThese days so many important aspects of our lives depend on sensitive technologies. The continued health of things like communications satellites and power generation stations is vital for maintaining our way of life. Space weather can change that in an instant by causing satellites to fall silent and power blackouts that leave millions of people in the dark. Forecasting and planning for space weather events is the only way we have to protect ourselves. To do this, we need good computer models.

ModelAn important principal in physics is that most systems, once they are sufficiently well understood, can be modeled and predictions can be made by using such models. For instance, meteorologists who create your weather forecast use sophisticated computer models, called simulations, which mimic the actual behavior of the weather in order to predict what the temperature and likelihood of precipitation are a few days in advance. But weather forecasts can be wrong, can’t they?

The same is true of forecasting space weather. Space weather is very complex and there are all sorts of processes involved: from the Sun’s ever changing magnetic field, to flares and coronal mass ejections, changes in the makeup of the solar wind, and the state of Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere. Because there is still so much to learn, our ability to forecast space weather is comparable to our ability to forecast meteorological conditions about 50 years ago!

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