Reconstruction and Prediction of Variations in the Open Solar Magnetic Flux and Interplanetary Conditions

Mike Lockwood 
University of Reading
Department of Meteorology
Earley Gate, P.O. Box 243
Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6BB, UK
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
RAL Space
Chilton, Didcot
Oxfordshire, OX11 0QX, UK

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Historic geomagnetic activity observations have been used to reveal centennial variations in the open solar flux and the near-Earth heliospheric conditions (the interplanetary magnetic field and the solar wind speed). The various methods are in very good agreement for the past 135 years when there were sufficient reliable magnetic observatories in operation to eliminate problems due to site-specific errors and calibration drifts. This review underlines the physical principles that allow these reconstructions to be made, as well as the details of the various algorithms employed and the results obtained. Discussion is included of: the importance of the averaging timescale; the key differences between “range” and “interdiurnal variability” geomagnetic data; the need to distinguish source field sector structure from heliospherically-imposed field structure; the importance of ensuring that regressions used are statistically robust; and uncertainty analysis. The reconstructions are exceedingly useful as they provide calibration between the in-situ spacecraft measurements from the past five decades and the millennial records of heliospheric behaviour deduced from measured abundances of cosmogenic radionuclides found in terrestrial reservoirs. Continuity of open solar flux, using sunspot number to quantify the emergence rate, is the basis of a number of models that have been very successful in reproducing the variation derived from geomagnetic activity. These models allow us to extend the reconstructions back to before the development of the magnetometer and to cover the Maunder minimum. Allied to the radionuclide data, the models are revealing much about how the Sun and heliosphere behaved outside of grand solar maxima and are providing a means of predicting how solar activity is likely to evolve now that the recent grand maximum (that had prevailed throughout the space age) has come to an end.

Keywords: Geomagnetic activity, Open solar flux, Interplanetary magnetic field, Solar wind, Cosmic rays, Cosmogenic isotopes, Centennial variations

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