Thermospheric and geomagnetic responses to interplanetary coronal mass ejections observed by ACE and GRACE Statistical results

Sandro Krauss*, Manuela Temmer, Astrid Veronig, Oliver Baur, Helmut Lammer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For the period July 2003 to August 2010, the interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME) catalogue maintained by Richardson and Cane lists 106 Earth-directed events, which have been measured in situ by plasma and field instruments on board the ACE satellite. We present a statistical investigation of the Earth's thermospheric neutral density response by means of accelerometer measurements collected by the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, which are available for 104 ICMEs in the data set, and its relation to various geomagnetic indices and characteristic ICME parameters such as the impact speed (vmax), southward magnetic field strength (Bz). The majority of ICMEs causes a distinct density enhancement in the thermosphere, with up to a factor of 8 compared to the preevent level. We find high correlations between ICME Bz and thermospheric density enhancements (≈0.9), while the correlation with the ICME impact speed is somewhat smaller (≈0.7). The geomagnetic indices revealing the highest correlations are Dst and SYM-H(≈0.9); the lowest correlations are obtained for Kp and AE (≈0.7), which show a nonlinear relation with the thermospheric density enhancements. Separating the response for the shock-sheath region and the magnetic structure of the ICME, we find that the Dst and SYM-H reveal a tighter relation to the Bz minimum in the magnetic structure of the ICME, whereas the polar cap indices show higher correlations with the Bz minimum in the shock-sheath region. Since the strength of the Bz component - either in the sheath or in the magnetic structure of the ICME - is highly correlated (≈0.9) with the neutral density enhancement, we discuss the possibility of satellite orbital decay estimates based on magnetic field measurements at L1, i.e., before the ICME hits the Earth magnetosphere. These results are expected to further stimulate progress in space weather understanding and applications regarding satellite operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8848-8860
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • ACE
  • Coronal mass ejections
  • Geomagnetic Index
  • Orbit Decay
  • Thermospheric density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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