GeoSpace at the System-Level


We use global-scale observations obtained via satellite imaging and global networks of ground-based instruments to provide us with important insights into the system-level behavior of geospace. The objective of this ISSI study group will be to explore the current state of knowledge of the global-scale behavior of, and develop a clear science vision for future system-level studies of geospace. We will focus attention on the competing views of deterministic behavior that anticipates effects that can be predicted based on sufficient knowledge of state and input and more stochastic behavior more consistent with the emerging discipline of natural complexity. We will attempt to deliver clear questions that are closeable, the observational requirements that those questions will demand, and new techniques that would meet those requirements. This work will be of significant value to the international ground-based and imaging communities, and will lay the foundation for exciting new science. Colloquially speaking, we seek to move well beyond perceptions of global-scale observations as primarily providers of context, and to highlight new technologies that will reasonably and effectively be brought to efforts to study geospace at the system-level.

Objectives of Study Group

1. Review published works in which system-level aspects of geospace have been addressed.
2. Review techniques for obtaining information at the system-level (e.g., global) from the ground and in space. This will include space-based systems such as Energetic Neutral Atom, X-Ray, and auroral imagers, as well as global networks of ground-based instruments (GPS, magnetometers, riometers, optical instruments, HF, VHF, and UHF radars, etc.).
3. Clarify the set of questions that must be addressed in order for us to achieve a system-level understanding of geospace. For example, our field has traditionally approached problems on the global scale in a reductionistic and deterministic fashion. In recent years, work on nonlinear dynamics, threshold physics, and natural complexity have called such approaches into question. One example of a problem we will clarify is “What aspects of geospace system-level dynamics are deterministic and therefore predictable in principle at least?”
4. Develop a set of “observational requirements” that must be met in order to address the questions listed in 3. Addressing the set of questions we will develop will require better observations. For example, addressing issues related to natural complexity will drive us to obtain simultaneous spectra of spatial and temporal fluctuations of various geospace parameters.
5. Review new technologies that are practical to implement and that can provide new insights into geospace on the global scale. Possible new systems for obtaining global-scale information about geospace include the planned Distributed Arrays of Small Instrumentation program, imagers with better temporal, spatial, and spectral resolution than previously obtained, and tomographic observations of large parts of the magnetospheric and ionosphere.
6. Using the results of 3-5, develop a realistic plan for global-scale observations that will, together with the above-mentioned upcoming in situ programs, allow us to achieve true system-level understanding of geospace over the next several decades.


The organizer of the study group will be Mark Lester of Leicester University (UK). The team has been selected to bring together the elements of global imaging, global ground-based networks, global modeling, and natural complexity. This team is well positioned to and capable of developing a vision for system-level studies of geospace.

Carlson, Pontus


Denton, Mick


Donovan, Eric


Frey, Harald


Imber, Suzie


Lester, Mark


Liemohn, Michael


Liu, William


Milan, Steve


Østgard, Nikolai


Palmrooth, Minna


Ridley, Aaron


Spanswick, Emma


Uritsky, Vadim


Zhang, Xiaoxin



The first meeting was held at ISSI during the week starting October 29 2007 and lasted for 5 days. A report on this meeting will be placed here. The second meeting will be held in Spring 2009.

Actual proposal submitted to ISSI (in PDF)