Observation-based modelling of magnetised coronal mass ejections with EUHFORIA


Context. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are the primary source of strong space weather disturbances at Earth. Their geo-effectiveness is largely determined by their dynamic pressure and internal magnetic fields, for which reliable predictions at Earth are not possible with traditional cone CME models.

Aims. We study two well-observed Earth-directed CMEs using the EUropean Heliospheric FORecasting Information Asset (EUHFORIA) model, testing for the first time the predictive capabilities of a linear force-free spheromak CME model initialised using parameters derived from remote-sensing observations.

Methods. Using observation-based CME input parameters, we performed magnetohydrodynamic simulations of the events with EUHFORIA, using the cone and spheromak CME models.

Results. Simulations show that spheromak CMEs propagate faster than cone CMEs when initialised with the same kinematic parameters. We interpret these differences as the result of different Lorentz forces acting within cone and spheromak CMEs, which lead to different CME expansions in the heliosphere. Such discrepancies can be mitigated by initialising spheromak CMEs with a reduced speed corresponding to the radial speed only. Results at Earth provide evidence that the spheromak model improves the predictions of B (Bz) by up to 12–60 (22–40) percentage points compared to a cone model. Considering virtual spacecraft located within ±10° around Earth, B (Bz) predictions reach 45–70% (58–78%) of the observed peak values. The spheromak model shows inaccurate predictions of the magnetic field parameters at Earth for CMEs propagating away from the Sun-Earth line.

Conclusions. The spheromak model successfully predicts the CME properties and arrival time in the case of strictly Earth-directed events, while modelling CMEs propagating away from the Sun-Earth line requires extra care due to limitations related to the assumed spherical shape. The spatial variability of modelling results and the typical uncertainties in the reconstructed CME direction advocate the need to consider predictions at Earth and at virtual spacecraft located around it.

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Astronomy & Astrophysics


EDP Sciences

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