EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Perspectives on the thermosphere response to extreme magnetic storms: Current status of neutral mass density modeling

Denny Oliveira1,2, Eftyhia Zesta1, Piyush Mehta3, Richard Licata3, Marcin Pilinski4, W. Kent Tobiska5, and Hisashi Hayakawa6,7,8
Denny Oliveira et al.
  • 1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, United States of America (
  • 2University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, United States of America
  • 3University of West Virginia, Morgantown, United States of America
  • 4University of Colorado, Boulder, United States of America
  • 5Space Environment Technologies, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, United States of America
  • 6Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan
  • 7UK Solar System Data Centre, Space Physics and Operations Division, RAL Space, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell Oxford, Didcot, United Kingdom
  • 8Nishina Center, Riken, Wako, Japan

Orbits of human assets such as satellites, crewed spacecraft and stations in low-Earth orbit (LEO) are very sensitive to the highly dynamic environment in which they fly. Atmospheric drag caused by the interaction between the orbiting object and the local thermospheric neutral mass density affects the satellite’s lifetime and orbital tracking, which becomes increasingly inaccurate or uncertain with storm intensity. Given the planned increase of government and private satellite presence in LEO, the need for accurate density predictions for collision avoidance and lifetime optimization, particularly during extreme events, has become an urgent matter and requires comprehensive international collaboration. Additionally, long-term solar activity models and historical data suggest that the solar activity will significantly increase in the following years and decades. In this presentation, we briefly summarize the main achievements in the research of thermospheric density response to magnetic storms occurring particularly after the launching of many satellites with state-of-the-art accelerometers for density determination (CHAMP, GRACE, GOCE, Swarm). We argue that specification models (e.g., HASDM) perform reasonably well during storm main and recovery phases of extreme storms, but forecasting models (e.g., JB2008) do not perform well throughout the storm cycle. We will discuss how forecasting models can be improved by looking into two directions: first, to the past, by adapting historical extreme storm datasets for density predictions, and second, to the future, by facilitating the assimilation of large-scale data sets that will be collected in future events. We invite the community to the discussion on the possible use of several hundreds of satellites with lower resolution density measurements along with data assimilation schemes or the use of ~100 high precision tracked satellites as a more effective approach for future density determinations.

How to cite: Oliveira, D., Zesta, E., Mehta, P., Licata, R., Pilinski, M., Tobiska, W. K., and Hayakawa, H.: Perspectives on the thermosphere response to extreme magnetic storms: Current status of neutral mass density modeling, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8476,, 2022.