MS Atmospheric Science thesis defense of Ruby Navarro: Comparison of MO foF2 observations with IRI-2016 model for Solar Cycle 21

The Department of Physics cordially invites you to an Atmospheric Science Thesis Defense:

Ionosonde foF2 observations at Manila Observatory, Philippines for Solar Cycle 21: Comparison with IRI-2016 Model

  • MS Atmospheric Science Candidate: Ruby Jane Navarro
  • Date and Time: 08 April 2019, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Venue: Heyden Hall, Manila Observatory
  • Thesis Adviser: Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr
  • Thesis Panelists: Mr. Clint Dominic Bennett, Dr. Maria Obiminda Cambaliza, and Dr. James Bernard Simpas

Abstract.We studied the historical data for the critical frequency foF2 of the F2 ionospheric layer from an ionosonde at Manila Observatory (MO) in the Philippines (14.7N, 121.1E) for the years 1976 – 1986, a period covering the entire solar cycle 21. A solar cycle is measured by the Wolf’s number, which depends on the number of sunspots. More sunspots correspond to high solar activity, resulting to more molecules ionized in the upper atmosphere, which range from 60 to 1,000 km. The ionosphere has different layers—D, E, F1, and F2–but the layer most responsive to solar activity is the F2 layer. To monitor the F2 layer, an ionosonde sends radio waves from 2 to 30 MHz upwards to the ionosphere. The speed of these radio waves depend on the density of electrons and the wave frequency. The critical frequency foF2 is the maximum frequency that can be reflected by the ionosphere, neglecting the effect of geomagnetic field, i.e., when a radio wave frequency exceeds this value, it may no longer return to the Earth.

In our work, we compared the observed ionospheric values of MO with those of the International Reference Ionosphere 2016 model (IRI-2016) to determine if the model can accurately predict the observed values or whether the model needs to be updated to accommodate the MO data, which consists of monthly median hourly values of foF2. The IRI- 2016 model was run using the geographic location and temporal resolution of MO data, with the following optional input parameters: geomagnetic storm model turned off and the URSI coefficient set for Ne F-peak. The method of statistical moments was implemented in order to obtain characteristics of observed and model comparison values, such as average, root mean square error, skewness and kurtosis. Analysis showed that the foF2 values derived from the MO- IRI 2016 hourly linear calibration curve (MOIRI) fit well with the observed data for the given geographical time and location, as compared to the values obtained by the basic IRI-2016 model run.

Ateneo Physics faculty Clint Bennett attends UN/USA Workshop on International Space Weather Initiative at Boston College

ateneophysicsnews_clint_bennett_boston_profile_20180202 (1)

Clint Dominic Bennett of Manila Observatory and Ateneo de Manila University during the poster session of the “UN/USA Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative: The Decade after the Heliophysical Year 2007” held at Boston College last July 31 to August 2, 2017

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Last July 31 to August 2, 2017, Ateneo Physics faculty Clint Dominic Bennett attended The United Nations/United States of America Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative: The Decade after the International Heliophysical Year 2007, which was organized jointly by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Boston College. The workshop was hosted by Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA.

ISWI is a “program of international cooperation to advance the space weather science by a combination of instrument deployment, analysis and interpretation of space weather data from the deployed instruments in conjunction with space data, and communicate the results to the public and students. ISWI is a follow-up activity to the successful IHY 2007, but focusing exclusively on space weather.” On the other hand, IHY 2007 is an acronym for the International Heliophysical Year held in 2007, which was held 50 years after the International Geophysical Year (IGY 1957). The aim of International Heliophysical Year (IHY) is to gather scientists and engineers to make a global coordinated observations of the heliosphere to study its effects on the Earth. Just like winds in the the Earth’s atmosphere, the Sun also blows charged particles known as solar wind, creating a bubble called the heliosphere that extends far beyond Pluto until the solar wind is overpowered by the pressure from the hydrogen and helium gas that permeates the Milky Way galaxy: the solar wind then abruptly slows down forming the sheath known as the termination shock.

The ISWI 2017 workshop is divided into 12 topical sessions: (1) International recognition of space weather risks, (2) Building on today’s space weather foundation, (3) Developing an international framework for space weather services, (4) IHY+10: The origins of ISWI, (5) Scientific results on the interplanetary medium and geospace, (6) Scientific results on the ionosphere and thermosphere, (7) Space weather instruments, (8) Space Weather Modeling 1: From Sun to Geospace, (9) Space Weather Modelling 2: Near-Earth Radiation and Plasma Environment, (10) International Outreach and Capacity Building, (11) Coordination of Space- and Ground-Based Data Resources and ISWI, (12) Final Discussion: Observations, Recommendations and the Way Forward.

During the last day of the workshop, representatives from 58 countries presented posters on how their respective countries progressed in ten years after the International Heliophysical Year in 2007. As the representative from the Philippines, Clint presented a poster entitled, Space Weather Activities in the Philippines: 2007-2017, which was co-authored by scientists and researchers from Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo de Davao University, University of San Carlos (Cebu), National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), and the International Center for Space Weather Science and Education (ICSWSE) of Kyushu University. The poster highlighted several key ISWI-related events in different years, such as the establishment of Kyushu University’s SERC (Space Environment Research Center–now known as ICSWSE) Subcenter at the Ionosphere Research Building of Manila Observatory in 2011, Manila Observatory’s 150th anniversary international conference with space weather presentations by Dr. Keith Groves of Boston College and Dr. Akimasa Yoshikawa of Kyushu University in 2015, the launch of Philippines’ Diwata-I satellite in 2016, and the research fellowship of Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr at Kyushu University in 2016-2017.

Below is an interview with Clint Bennett by Ateneo Physics News:


Clint Dominic Bennett (rightmost) with other participants in the UN/USA ISWI Workshop in Boston College (2017). (Photo credit: ISWI Newsletter)

1. What is your current role at Manila Observatory?

I am currently working with the Upper Atmosphere Dynamics research group of the Manila Observatory. Part of my work is to coordinate the maintenance and transmission of data of the MAGDAS and AMBER magnetometers in the Philippines. I also coordinate with the station managers about their internet connections. I have attended conferences and workshops to keep the group updated and connected with the ISWI community.

2. How were you invited to the conference? Who are the persons you met there?

Originally, Dr. Quirino Sugon, Jr., as ISWI coordinator of the Philippines, was originally invited to attend The United Nations / United States of America Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative: The Decade after the International Heliophysical Year 2007 which was held last July 31 to August 4, 2017. However, some circumstances prevented him from being able to attend and he asked me to attend on his behalf and in behalf of the ISWI community in the Philippines.

I met a lot of the people the UAD has worked with in the past including Dr. Patricia Doherty, Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw and Dr. Keith Groves of the Institute for Scientific Research in Boston College and Dr. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Dr. Akiko Fujimoto of ICSWSE. Also there were the people who have always played a big role in advancing Space Weather research and keeping the Space Weather community organized and coordinated such as Dr. Nat Gopalswamy of NASA/GSFC and SCOSTEP, Sharafat Gadimova, Co-chair of UNOOSA, Katya Georgieva of SCOSTEP and VarSITI and Terry Onsager of the International Space Environment Service.

3. What was your poster presentation about?

My poster was about the Space Weather Activities in the Philippines for the years 2007 to 2017. In it I reported about the Space Weather Instrument Hosting done by research, academic and government institutions in the Philippines, the international conference organized by the Manila Observatory, the international conference and workshop attendance and presentations from the Philippines, and the space weather research reports and publications from the Philippines.

4. Where did you stay?

For the duration of the workshop, I stayed at Stayer Hall in the Boston College Chestnut Hill campus. Walking around, I met some former Ateneo faculty now working in Boston.

5. How was the weather in Boston College? Did you get to travel around? Any memorable experience?

It was summer time in Boston and the Weather was perfect. In my free time, I traveled around downtown Boston and did my own historical walking tour. As part of the workshop excursion, I was able to go to Boston’s famous Museum of Science were I saw the original Van de Graaff machines made by the American Physicist Robert J. Van de Graaff. After the museum tour, we had the conference banquet just outside the museum by the Charles River. I also got to watch a Major League Baseball game at Fenway park where I enjoyed Fenway franks and conversations with Americans from other walks of life.

6. What important things have you learned at the conference?

This conference was one of the major conferences for the Space Weather community, with over 150 participants from 50 countries. It marked the 10th Anniversary of the International Heliophysical Year, which led to the genesis of the International Space Weather Initiative. It was organized to highlight the achievements of ISWI over the past ten years and to show-case the worldwide development of Space Weather science, capacity building and outreach. Among the important topics were the International Framework for Space Weather Service, International Recognition of Space Weather Risks, Improving Research for Operational Services, Scientific Results on the Interplanetary Medium and Geospace, Scientific Results on the Ionosphere and Thermosphere, Space Weather Instrumentation, Space Weather Modeling, International Outreach and Capacity Building, and Coordination of Space- and Ground-Based Data Resources.

The Conference also included a meeting of the Space Weather community about Observations and Recommendations that will be forwarded to the United Nations and which will be part of the UN’s policies on Space Weather. On the role of a coordinating body to prepare for severe space weather events and mitigate their impacts, presentations and discussions by a wide range of space weather stakeholders, service providers and users illuminated an extensive network of space weather services and capabilities, underpinned by an increased understanding of space weather science, impact and risks. Workshop participants agreed that international coordination was essential to mitigate the threat posed by space weather to the modern interconnected and interdependent society.

On recognizing and building on prior and continuing work by space weather stakeholders, participants recognized that there were many steps that could be taken to develop improved international space weather coordination. The guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities relating to space weather, namely, sharing operational space weather data and forecasts and developing space weather models and tools and collect established practices on the mitigation of space weather effects, provided the initial basis for examining the implementation of some of the necessary coordination and actions within Member States and their national and international organizations.

And on, UNISPACE+50 and the international framework for space weather services, the participants in the Workshop noted that space weather has a global impact, which necessitates a global response through improved coordination. The Workshop participants agreed that additional coordination was essential at the Member State level, with a view to promoting international coordination and cooperation towards meeting future needs for space weather services. It was noted that UNISPACE+50 represented a unique opportunity to provide input to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in relation to future requirements for improved space weather services through ISWI. One can read more about UNISPACE+50 at the UNOOSA website.


Group photo during the “UN/USA Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative: The Decade after the Heliophysical Year 2007” held at Boston College last July 31 to August 2, 2017

AMBER magnetometer installation at MO Davao station and NAMRIA Magnetic Observatory


Dr. James Simpas, Clint Bennett, and Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw at Manila Observatory (MO). Top right: AMBER sensor surrounded by bamboo fence at MO Davao Station. Bottom right: AMBER box being carried inside MO Solar Research Building.

Two AMBER (African Meridian B-field Education and Research)  magnetometers were installed in the Philippines. The first was installed at Manila Observatory’s Davao station in Matina Hills in 12 February 2016 and the other at the Magnetic Observatory of the Philippine National Mapping and Resource Information Agency (NAMRIA), Muntinlupa in 13 June 2016. The principal investigator of the AMBER project is Dr. Mark Moldwin from the University of Michigan, while the principal investigator of the AMBER expansion project is Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw from the Institute of Scientific Research of Boston College. The installations in the Philippines were led by Dr. James Simpas and Clint Bennett. Dr. James Simpas is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University and head of Urban Air Quality / Instrumentation Technology Development and   programs (UAQ/ITD) at Manila Observatory. Clint Bennett is an Instructor at the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University, Coordinator of the Philippine MAGDAS (Magnetic Data Acquisition System) Network, and research staff of the Upper Dynamics Program of Manila Observatory.

The AMBER magnetometer network was built by Boston College to gain a more complete global understanding of equatorial ionospheric motions. AMBER magnetometer stations are used to connect the European IMAGE-SAMNET-SEGMA magnetometer arrays to low and dip-equator latitudes, and link up with South African Intermagnet and Antarctic magnetometers in the southern hemisphere. Amber aims to provide complete meridian observation in the region and filling the largest land-based gap in global magnetometer coverage.  The two AMBER installations in the Philippines at Davao and Muntinlupa were funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).

AMBER (African Meridian B-field Education and Research) Magnetometer Network

Global Equatorial AMBER ()Magnetometer Network

A. Installation in MO-Davao Station

Last 12 February 2016, Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw of Boston College was accompanied by Dr. James B. Simpas, the head of the Instrumentation Technology Division of Manila Observatory, in the installation of an AMBER magnetometer in MO-Davao station at Matina Hills, with the help of MO-Davao staff Efren Morales and Ruel Narisma.

Davao is an important location since through it passes the magnetic dip equator where the geomagnetic field is nearly horizontal and not tilted from the vertical unlike at the poles. Along the magnetic dip equator flows the Equatorial Electrojet (EEJ), which is a narrow ribbon of eastward current that peaks around 1:00 pm local time. During geomagnetic storms, ring currents are also formed in the equatorial region at 3 to 5 times the radius of the earth (about 6,378 km). The EEJ and ring currents generate magnetic fields around them which can be measured by the magnetometers near the equator.

B. Failed Installation at Manila Observatory

Last 9 February 2016, a few days before the AMBER magnetometer was installed at MO-Davao station, Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw met with Clint Bennett, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr, and Dr. James Simpas at Manila Observatory. Dr. Yizengaw brought with him the box containing the AMBER magnetometer sensor, cable, and logger. But after some tests, the magnetometer data received was too noisy.

Clint Bennett and Dr. James Simpas also tested the magnetometer readings at the Jesuit Residence near the High School area of the Ateneo de Manila University Campus last 24 February 2016. The data was still noisy. They tried to test again 4 days later for about 30 min. The same noise problem. A new location is needed.

C. Installation at Magnetic Observatory of NAMRIA in Muntinlupa


Clint Bennett and CPO Alex Algaba in front of the MAGDAS magnetometer data logger at the Magnetic Observatory of NAMRIA in Muntinlupa. Top right: Clint Bennett and Ezequiel Manalac of MO unloads the AMBER cables. Bottom right: Henry Nayve and Clint Bennett of MO sets up the internet connection of the AMBER sensor in NAMRIA office.

Last 5 March 2016, Clint Bennett contacted CPO Alex Algaba of the Magnetic Observatory of NAMRIA (National Mapping and Resource Information Authority), and asked permission to install the magnetometer at the observatory in Muntinlupa. A month later, CPO Algaba informed Mr. Bennett that Commodore Jacinto M. Cablayan, Director of the Hydrography Branch of NAMRIA, had obtained the permission from NAMRIA for the installation of the AMBER magnetometer.

NAMRIA was created in 1988 by DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to “provide the public with mapmaking services and to act as the central mapping agency, depository, and distribution facility for natural resources data in the form of maps, charts, texts, and statistics.” NAMRIA’s Director is Dr. Peter Tiangco who manages four technical branches: (1) Mapping and Geodesy, (2) Hydrography, (3) Resource Data Analysis, and (4) Geospatial Systems Management.

The Hydrography Branch acquires and analyzes hydrographic and oceanographic data for promoting navigational safety and oceanographic research. The outputs are nautical charts, navigational warnings, and tide and current predictions. The hydrography branch also collects 12-month geomagnetic data from magnetometers hosted by NAMRIA, which are part of OHP (Ocean Hemisphere network Project) of the University of Tokyo and the MAGDAS/CPMN (Magnetic Data Acquisition System / Circum-pan Pacific Magnetometer Network) Project of Kyushu University. Now, the hydrography branch also collects 12-month geomagnetic data from the AMBER Netowrk. These data are used together with those from 18 repeat stations all over the country to construct data products such as geomagnetic maps.

Last 14 April 2016, Clint Bennett together with Exequiel Manalac and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. visited the NAMRIA Magnetic Observatory in Muntinlupa, bringing with them the AMBER magnetometer set. They were welcomed by CPO Alex Algaba. Because of the length of the magnetometer cable is not long enough, the magnetometer was buried only a few meters from the iron gate, such that whenever the gate is opened or closed, the magnetometer readings jump.

On 13 May 2016, Clint Bennett returned to NAMRIA together with and Henry Nayve and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr to adjust internet settings of AMBER’s BeagleBone, so that the data would show up in the AMBER website. The set-up was finished about noon.  Then the MO team, together with CPO Alex Algaba, traveled to NAMRIA headquarters in Manila. There they were received by Commodore Jacinto M. Cablayan, Director of the Hydrology Branch of NAMRIA. Clint Bennett and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr discussed with Commodore Cablayan and his staff the AMBER network, the Manila Observatory, and NAMRIA’s interest in geomagnetic field data. The action step agreed in the meeting was the creation of an MOU between MO and NAMRIA regarding the AMBER installation.

On 13 June 2016, the magnetometer was transferred to its final location, more than 200 m from the iron gate. It’s now in the woods behind magnetometer house, far from vehicular or human traffic.


Meeting at the NAMRIA Hydroglogy Branch office at Manila. From left to right: CPO Alex Algaba, Eng’r. Dennis Arsenio B. Bringas, Commodore Jacinto M. Cablayan, Clint Bennett, and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

Ateneo Physics faculty Clint Dominic Bennett attends two ionospheric research workshops in ICTP, Italy



by Quirino Sugon Jr

Ateneo Physics faculty Clint Dominic G. Bennett  attended two workshops at the Abdus Salaam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy. The first was the Workshop on the use of Ionospheric GNSS Satellite Derived Total Electron Content Data for Navigation, Ionospheric and Space Weather Research last 20-24 June 2016. The second workshop was the International Beacon Satellite Symposium 2016 last 27 June to 1 July, 2016.

GNSS is the Global Navigation Satellite System, a term which encompasses the Global Positioning System (GPS) of US and the GLONASS of Russia. GNSS satellites send positioning information to receivers on Earth via radio waves which pass through the ionosphere, where their propagation directions are bent or reflected in the same way as light beams pass from air to water. Comparing the satellite positions from the transmitted and received values provides information on the density of electrons in the ionosphere, positions of ground-based receivers, and the effects of solar activity on the ionosphere.

The Beacon Satellite Symposium 2016, on the other hand, was organized by Beacon Satellite Group of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) Commission G. The symposium provides an opportunity for international ionospheric scientists to meet and collaborate on the study of ionospheric effects on radio propagation for science, engineering, and research applications.

Below is an interview with Mr. Clint Bennett by the Ateneo Physics News:

1. Where did you go to in Italy?

I went to the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics to the attend the Workshop on use of Ionospheric GNSS Satellite Derived Total Electron Content Data for Navigation, Ionospheric and Space Weather Research last 20 – 24 June, 2016 and the International Beacon Satellite Symposium 2016 last 27 June to 1 July, 2016. The workshop focused on training the participants in using existing TEC calibration software and explaining the results in terms of Space weather events as indicated by indices such as Kp and Dst. The symposium on the other hand was actually a conference with plenary and parallel sessions. It was organized by the Beacon Satellite Studies Group of URSI Commission G, an interdisciplinary group, servicing science, research, application and engineering aspects of statellite signals observed from the ground and in space. There were around 200 participants in the symposium.

2. Who invited you to go to the conference?

I was invited by Dr. Endawoke Yizengaw from the Boston College Institute for Scientific Research. He is one of the Principal Investigators of the AMBER (African Meridian B-field Education and Research) project. The Manila Observatory is hosting two of the magnetometers for this project and Dr. Yizengaw has been here in Manila Observatory. My transportation and accommodation were shouldered by the conference organizers and sponsors: ICTP, ICG, Boston College and EGU.3. Did you present something?

A lot of us were invited as students and were not required to make a presentation. This is their way of encouraging Space weather research in third world countries. We were instead required to do exercises on TEC calibration and make a group report.

4. What are the talks that you found interesting? How are they related to your work at Manila Observatory and the Department of Physics? 

There were a lot of interesting talks. One of them was about the direct forcing of the thermosphere and ionosphere by small-scale gravity waves originating from the lower atmosphere. In the upper atmosphere gravity waves directly affect the thermospheric circulation by energy and momentum deposition and an interesting result is that gravity waves cool the upper atmosphere at a rate of -150 K per day.

Another one was about the detection of tsunami driven events in the ionosphere via occultation. They reported the ionospheric response to the great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which occurred together with a minor magnetic storm. It was nice to learn that tsunamis can drive gravity waves to the ionosphere.

5. What are the interesting places and landmarks you visited? 

The Beacon Satellite Symposium included an excursion to Aquileia. It is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It is an ancient Roman city in Friuli Venezia Giulia. It was one of the worlds largest cities during the Roman times and is now a major archaeological site with so much still to be excavated.

6. What are some key insights that you learned after the conference? 

The Beacon satellite symposium is evidence of growing interest in the study of Sun-Earth interaction. It has attracted a wide variety of international researchers from over 40 countries, a lot of them from non-academic institutions, to study the earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere and I think the Philippines can be part of this. It would be a big step forward if I could encourage students to be involved in this field of research.

7. Do you have any parting message to our physics students?

There are so many ways for students to get involved in the study of Space Weather. The international community makes an effort to direct funding towards problems that face the world as a whole, such as space weather effects and monitoring of natural hazards. These creates the availability of financial support for students from third world countries.


Excavations in the ancient Roman city Aquileia in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

Ateneo Physics Faculty Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr attends the 2015 UN/Japan Workshop on Space Weather

Participants in the 2015 UN/Japan Workshop on Space Weather held at Luigans Hotel, Fukuoka City, Japan. (Photo by ICSWSE posted in Twitter)

Last 2-6 March 2015, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr, Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics, attended the United Nations/Japan Worshop on Space Weather in Fukuoka, Japan. This 5-day workshop at Luigans Hotel in Fukuoka is about Science and Data Products from ISWI instruments. ISWI is the International Space Weather Initiative, which was part of the 2010-2012 workplan of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). ISWI is a collaboration of different instrument arrays for the understanding of the impact of solar activity on Earth. One of these instrument networks is the MAGDAS (Magnetic Data Acquisition System) network, which consists of 72 magnetometers worldwide, with 6 of them in the Philippines (TGG, LGZ, MUT, CEB, CDO, and DAV). In 2012, ISWI led to the creation of ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) in Kyushu University. The ICSWSE subcenter is at the Ionosphere Research Building of Manila Observatory. As the program head of Manila Observatory’s (UAD) Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program, Dr. Sugon also coordinates the activities of the ICSWSE subcenter and those of the other MAGDAS stations in the Philippines.

Below is an interview with Dr. Sugon by Ateneo Physics News:


The research team of Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program of Manila Observatory: Clint Bennett, Christine Chan, and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

1. How long have you been attending ISWI-related activities?

In 2010 I attended the 1st ISWI Workshop in Helwan University, Egypt. In 2012, I attended the MAGDAS/ISWI School on Space Weather in Bandung, Indonesia, together with my co-faculty, Mr. Clint Bennett. This 2015, Clint Bennett and Fr. Daniel J. McNamara were also both invited to join the UN/Japan Space Weather workshop in Fukuoka, Japan, but Fr. Dan has a visa problem while Clint got sick a few days before his flight to Japan. So I left for Japan alone.

My attendance to the ISWI workshops was made possible because of our collaboration with ICSWSE. In 2008, Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto of SERC (former name of ICSWSE) and Executive Director Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of MO (Manila Observatory) signed a Memorandum of Agreement which led to the establishment of MO’s Ionosphere Research Building as the SERC subcenter (now ICSWSE Subcenter). In all three workshops, ICSWSE funded my trips.

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. presenting his poster on Equatorial Electrojet measurements in the Philippines

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. presenting his poster on Equatorial Electrojet measurements in the Philippines

2. Did you present a research at the workshop?

I presented a poster on the measurement of the height, strength, and length of equatorial electrojet (EEJ) currents in the ionosphere using MAGDAS magnetometer data. These currents produce a magnetic field around them which can be measured on the ground, and from these measurements we can deduce the the properties of these electrojets, after filtering out the background geomagnetic field. The theoretical framework is simply Biot-Savart law, which is taught sophomore physics and engineering majors, e.g. Young and Freedman’s University Physics. What is new maybe is our assumption that the jets are not infinitely long linear currents as assumed by Chapman, but only of finite length, as shown, for example, in magnetohydrodynamic simulations illustrated in the Wikipedia article on the EEJ.

These equatorial electrojets were already measured by Jesuit Fathers in Manila Observatory in their magnetometer stations in Manila and Antipolo more than 100 years ago. The Jesuits produced tables of magnetometer values in H (horizontal), D (declination), and Z (vertical) every hour of the day. So my presentation in the UN/Japan workshop is a continuation of this long Jesuit tradition in space weather research at Manila Observatory.

My research team at Manila Observatory consists of my co-faculty Clint Bennett and Research Assistant, Christine Chan. Clint made the first measurements of the equatorial electrojet current height, strength, and length by analyzing MAGDAS CEB data using Matlab. We presented the results of his work in a poster at the AOGS (Asia Oceania Geosciences Society) conference in Sapporo, Japan last 2014. Christine continued Clint’s work, but this time she coded in Python and added two more stations: CDO and LGZ. The results are still the same: the electrojet is about 1,000 km from the ground at the dip equator near Davao (where the vertical component of the geomagnetic field is nearly zero), with strengths of about 1 Ampere, and lengths of about 1,500 km. These jets follow a diurnal variation, which peaks at around 1 pm local time.

Our results of 1,000 km electrojet height is troubling, because the accepted values in the literature is only about 100 km. Perhaps, there is something different about the Philippine electrojets which is responsible for the 1,000 km heights. Perhaps, we have not yet considered the curvature of the earth. The analytical computation of the magnetic field of a finite circular current arc was already done before by another author, but the integrals are a bit tough. Perhaps we have not yet considered the magnetic field produced by the ground induced currents (GIC), which are currents produced by the changing magnetic field produced by the electrojets, as described by Faraday’s Law. Perhaps, some electromagnetic shielding happens in the lower ionosphere, which distorts the magnetic field produced by the electrojet currents. Perhaps, the electrojets are not infinitesimal but have spatially varying finite widths and heights. We’ll consider these possibilities one by one in order to gain a better picture of the motion of the equatorial electrojets.

Equatorial Electrojet

Equatorial Electrojet (EEJ). Source: Wikipedia.

 3. Why should we care about equatorial electrojets and space weather?

Equatorial electrojets are similar to the auroral electrojets: in both cases the currents move in circles perpendicular to the geomagnetic field and they occur daily due to the rotation of the earth and the difference in ion production between the earth’s day and night sides. The auroral electrojets are not the same as the dazzling auroras at the polar countries, which only happen during geomagnetic storms.  But electrojets and auroras are similar in that they are due to the motion of electrical charges.

On a more serious note, geomagnetic storms are becoming more dangerous the more we rely on satellite-based global navigation systems such as GPS for cars and airplanes. As you perhaps know, position information is determined using the sending and arrival times of signals from at least 4 GPS satellites. Signals which take a long time to reach you are farther than those which took a shorter time to reach you. Multiply the time difference between the time the signal left the satellite and the time it reached the receiver by the speed of light (about 3×10^8 m/s) and you get the satellite-to-receiver distance in kilometers. If you only have one satellite, you only know that you are within a particular spherical radius from a satellite. If you have two satellites, you know your position lies somewhere in circle which is the intersection of the two spheres of possible distances. If you have three satellites, you know that your position is one of two possible points (intersection of thre spheres of possible distances). If you have four satellites, you can be finally sure where you are, and this is how the GPS works.

Now, if there is a geomagnetic storm, the earth’s magnetic field becomes disturbed, which in turn disturbs the ionosphere. Since the ionosphere lies between you and the GPS satellites, the satellite signals would be severely affected. Remember that satellite signals are electromagnetic waves and the ionosphere consists of charges which are affected by electric and magnetic fields. When the satellite signal passes through the ionosphere, its path becomes reflected or refracted (bent) in the same way as when you shine a flash light in a glass plate, but with different colors or frequencies affected more than others. It is possible to remove the effects of the ionosphere by using the travel time of two different frequencies sent by satellites at the L1 and L2 bands (their wavelengths are the length and width of your iPad!). But this removal of ionospheric effects is only possible if we make certain assumptions about the ionosphere, e.g. horizontally stratified and static. So during geomagnetic storms which can last for several hours, these assumptions about the ionosphere fail and no algorithm can help us deduce our position from the GPS satellites. Filipino sailors may not really worry about this, since they were trained to determine their latitude and longitude positions from the positions of the sun and stars. But sailors and pilots who rely exclusively on GPS would be at loss. This is particularly true in the polar region: during geomagnetic storms, pilots are advised to avoid the poles and take alternative routes. Airplanes which got lost during geomagnetic storms may find themselves straying in hostile territory and may get shot down by missiles for being mistaken as fighter jets or spy planes.

Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. Prof. Yoshika is the Principal Investigator of the MAGDAS Project of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan.

Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. Prof. Yoshika is the Principal Investigator of the MAGDAS Project of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan.

4. Is there a relationship between geomagnetic storms and ordinary storms such as typhoons or cyclones?

At present there is no known direct relationship between geomagnetic storms and ordinary storms. So the relationship between the two storms is is only by mathematical analogy.

If you are on the ground and a typhoon passes by, you only know how strong is the wind and how the air pressure drops. But if you have an array of about stations measuring wind speed, wind direction, and air pressure, together with a mathematical model of a typhoon, you can determine where the eye of the storm is, plot its course, and warn the citizens of the impending danger, as what Fr. Federico Faura, SJ of Manila Observatory have done more than a hundred years ago.

Similarly, if you are on the ground and a geomagnetic storm happens, all you see is are large oscillations in your magnetic data, and you can’t be sure whether these oscillations are due to geomagnetic storms or to electric trains, as what happened in the 1900’s when Manila Observatory in Manila was forced to relocate its magnetic station to Antipolo because the newly installed electric trains were disturbing the magnetic measurements.  If you have several magnetic stations in the whole Philippines as what we have now, you can isolate local effects, such as from electric trains, from geomagnetic storms. But to find the eye of the of the geomagnetic storm so to speak, you have to look far into space into the sun.

Right now, there are two STEREO satellites orbiting around the sun, which allows us to see the 3D structure of the sun in the same way as our two eyes allow us to gauge distances of objects using triangulation. In the sun are sunspots, which look like small dots from our vantage point, but some of them may be the size of the earth.  Actually, you can think of sunspots as typhoons or cyclones in the sun; the only difference is that instead of air currents and gravitational field, you have charged particles (plasma) under both the sun’s gravitational and magnetic fields.

Sometimes, the sun erupts like a volcano and vomits blobs of plasma into space called Coronal Mass Ejections.  These blobs of plasma have magnetic field locked into them.  How these plasma affects the earth depends on the direction of the plasma’s magnetic field, which is also known as the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).  Since the earth’s magnetic field is pointing from Geographic South to Geographic North (Northward), then the earth’s magnetic field would be affected by a Southward magnetic field of the plasma.  The earth’s magnetic field ripples due to the shock and the magnetotail reconnects. Then a part of the magnetic field flies out into space resulting to the injection of charges in the magnetosphere and the formation of auroras.

5. Are there signals no. 1, 2, and 3 for geomagnetic storms in the same way as what we have for typhoons?

Geomagnetic storms can be measured in a scale.  One way is to define the storm in terms of the fluctuations of the geomagnetic field, e.g. Bartel’s K-index.  Depending on the location of the magnetic station, the fluctuations can differ, so some kind of calibration is used in order to compare the values of different stations.  But if we are more interested on the effects of the geomagnetic storm, NOAA proposed another scale called the G-scale.  Here are the two extremes:

G1. Minor. Power systems: Weak power grid fluctuations can occur. Spacecraft operations: Minor impact on satellite operations possible. Other systems: Migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes (northern Michigan and Maine).

G5. Power systems: Widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage. Spacecraft operations: May experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites. Other systems: Pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida and southern Texas (typically 40° geomagnetic lat.).

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr with the staff of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan. Dr. Grace Cardinal Rolusta (center) used to work at the Manila Observatory under Fr. Sergio Su, SJ's Solid Earth Dynamics program.

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr with the staff of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan: Dr. Akiko Fujimoto (left) and Dr. Grace Cardinal Rolusta (center). Dr. Rolusta used to work at the Manila Observatory under Fr. Sergio Su, SJ’s Solid Earth Dynamics program.

6. Can Philippine electrical power grids be affected by geomagnetic storms?

There is no study yet for the Philippines.  But here’s is what happened to Quebec during the March 9, 1989 geomagnetic storm (Wikipedia):

The variations in the earth’s magnetic field also tripped circuit breakers on Hydro-Québec’s power grid. The utility’s very long transmission lines and the fact that most of Quebec sits on a large rock shield prevented current flowing through the earth, finding a less resistant path along the 735 kV power lines.[8]

The James Bay network went offline in less than 90 seconds, giving Quebec its second massive blackout in 11 months.[9] The power failure lasted nine hours and forced the company to implement various mitigation strategies, including raising the trip level, installing series compensation on ultra high voltage lines and upgrading various monitoring and operational procedures. Other utilities in North America and Northern Europe and elsewhere implemented programs to reduce the risks associated with geomagnetically induced currents.[8]

One way to determine if geomagnetic storms affect the Philippine power grid is to list all the occurrences of power failures, e.g. transformer breakdowns, their dates, times, and locations for an 11-year period, which corresponds to one solar cycle.  Then we make another list of geomagnetic storms according to NOAA G-scale for this period. If we see that many power failures come within a day or two of the occurrence of the geomagnetic storm, then geomagnetic storms may indeed cause many of these power failures.

A man and a woman before a giant aquarium

A tour of the Marine World near Luigans Hotel, Fukuoka City, Japan.

7. Did you visit other places in Fukuoka?

I was not able to join the tour around the city.  But near Luigans hotel is the Marine World. In this building is an amphitheater for the dolphin show. You see a pool below where the dolphins jump up and down on the water, sometimes they soar in pairs to great heights in order to reach a red ball in the ceiling, and then they fall back with a splash on the pool.  Across the pool is the sea, which stretches far into the horizon, and to the sky.

The Marine world is like a labyrinth glass tunnel inside a giant aquarium. It is fascinating to see fishes and other sea creatures in their near-natural habitat. I see the octopus, the shark, the turtle, and many small, brightly colored fishes. So this must be what it is to live like Aquaman in the great city Atlantis, with all these sea creatures at your call. Or perhaps like Captain Nemo in his submarine 20,000 leagues under the sea. Or perhaps like the Little Mermaid. And like the Little Mermaid, I feel in my heart that I do not really belong here, for a much more beautiful world is not down here but up there, and to live is to walk on land, breathe the air, and be with the love of your life. Perhaps, the whole universe is just one giant aquarium after and we do not really belong here. And someone who loves us awaits us far beyond the clouds, far beyond the sun, far beyond the stars.


Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto gives a speech while Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Ms. Kayo Goto helps him in the podium.

8. What was your most memorable moment at the conference?

During the last day and hour of the conference, Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto came to the podium with halting steps, accompanied by members of the ICSWSE: Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa, Engr. George Maeda, and Ms. Kayo Goto. His fingers were shaking as he held before him a piece of paper containing a few sentences:

“I am sorry. I had a stroke. I can’t remember many things. I would like to thank my wife for taking care of me.”

He repeated his speech thrice. Then everyone stood and clapped their hands for a long, long time. Here is a man who installed his first flux gate magnetometer system in 1990, which has grown in 2015 into a world wide network of more than 72 magnetometers and 3 FMCW radars, with 6 of these magnetometers stationed in the Philippines and one of these FMCW radars hosted in Manila Observatory. Here is a man who used to stride the world like a Colossus, meeting scientists from different continents to seek partners and collaborators, and inspire the next generation of students to pursue big science. And here he is now on a wheelchair, with much of his past memories he can barely retrieve from his brain.  But we love him, because we remember.

Indeed, science, for all its abstractions and mathematical formulas,  is still a human endeavor. A man can do only so much as a scientist, but in the end it is relationships that really matter.

Man and woman walking in the rain as seen from hotel's entrance

Entrance of Hotel Luigans, Fukuoka City, Japan. Photo by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Hotel with palms and benches

Facade of Hotel Luigans facing the sea in Fukuoka City, Japan. Photo by Quirino Sugon Jr.