Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type

Senior Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Noe Lugaz

Second Advisor

Michael Briggs


Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GICs) are electrical currents induced in ground-level conductive networks, like power lines and pipelines, which can cause costly damage to infrastructure. GICs are induced in response to fast changes in the geomagnetic field (GMF) according to Faraday’s Law of Electromagnetic Induction. The purpose of this study was to identify the parameters of the solar wind and interplanetary shocks which are most strongly correlated with large, fast changes in the magnitude of the GMF. GMF data is 1-min averaged time series of mid- and high-latitude magnetometer measurements in the Sym/H and AL indices, respectively. For solar wind data, I used an existing database of fast-forward interplanetary shocks compiled from measurements made by the WIND spacecraft. I performed t-tests, and created linear fits to determine which parameter(s) are likely responsible for large 1-min changes in the Sym/H and AL indices. Large changes in Sym/H are most strongly correlated with speed jump at the shock and the change in the square root of dynamic pressure and large changes in AL with speed jump at the shock. To determine the causes of events with larger 1-min changes than the fit, I created a subset of shocks which follow the trend with the same distribution as the outliers to find causes for the outliers. This revealed that faster shock and stronger upstream magnetic field are associated with stronger GMF changes.