Magnetic Pulsations and Transients

The MAPAT-project brings together researchers from Norway, Russia and France. The project will use data from instrumentation across the polar regions, with a specific focus on instruments in Svalbard and Northern Scandinavia.


EISCAT radar at Breinosa. Photo: Anja Strømme

About the project

The MAPAT-project (Magnetic Pulsations and Transients: The Sun-Earth Connection and Impact on the High Latitude Ionosphere) brings together researchers from Norway, Russia and France with the aim of understanding how energy is transferred into the Earth’s upper and middle atmosphere through ultra low frequency (ULF) waves in the Earth’s magnetic field. The energy source for these waves can be both internal and external to the Earth’s magnetosphere (the protective bubble the Earth sits inside, generated by it’s internal magnetic field – see figure below). The project will use data from instrumentation across the polar regions, with a specific focus on instruments in Svalbard and Northern Scandinavia. In addition to the research project, new students will be introduced to the topic through mobility grants and course development at UNIS. This project is continuing and expanding upon a research program (AWAT) which ran from 2015 – 2019.

The aims of the project are:

  • 5 work packages (4 research and 1 education)
  • analysis of multiple datasets from instrumentation across the Arctic regions
  • fieldwork visits to Svalbard
  • mini-workshops to be conducted at the project partner research institutes
  • joint presentations at international conferences and meetings
  • development of new Masters / PhD UNIS course and projects
  • student mobility between groups

Scientific background

The Earth’s Magnetosphere (right) and Solar Wind emanating from the Sun. Image: NASA

The Earth’s magnetic field forms a cavity around it called the magnetosphere which protects the Earth from the energy carried by the Solar Wind (solar particles and interplanetary magnetic field, IMF). (as shown in the figure above).

At high latitudes, the Earth’s magnetic field can connect to the IMF. This connection forms a gateway between the two systems and allows solar particles and energy to stream directly into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.  In addition to this direction connection, the Earth’s magnetic field lines can be thought of like strings on a guitar, with one end embedded in the Northern polar region and one in the Southern polar region.  The Sun and IMF performs the role of musician, continuously plucking at and stretching the strings causing waves, turbulence and thus energy to travel up and down them, before being deposited into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Figure 2: Energy flow from the Solar Wind into the ionosphere, through the excitation of a specific type of ULF waves – a field line resonance (FLR). Image: Baddeley PhD thesis

This influx of energy changes the atmosphere continuously, which then has a significant influence on the Earth’s climate. The aurora borealis is one such signature of this energy transfer into the ionosphere (the atmospheric layers between 70 – 600 km altitude). During periods of high auroral activity large amounts of energy can be deposited (up to ~1014 J over a few hours). This causes electron and ion temperature and density changes, in addition to the generation of large ionospheric electrical currents.  In the 21st century we rely heavily on technology which can be affected by these changes such as radio and satellite communications, Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS) and electrical power grids.

Due to its vast size it is not possible to monitor the entirety of the Earth’s magnetosphere in-situ. However, due to its geometry, the entire outer magnetosphere maps to a relatively small region in the ionosphere at polar and auroral latitudes. Magnetic Pulsations, in particular Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) waves and transients (with timescales of a few seconds to minutes), manifest themselves as periodic or impulsive fluctuations in the magnetic field and in the aforementioned signatures of this energy deposition into the upper atmosphere. Figure 3, below, shows periodic auroral arcs over Svalbard, generated through ULF waves:

Figure 3: ULF wave modulated auroral structures observed in All-Sky Camera data from Ny Ålesund. The four images are at 1 minute cadence (time shown at the top of each figure) and show the westward and southward propagation of the arcs. Image: Baddeley et al. 2017

Master projects and student mobility grants

There is funding available for students to come to UNIS through the project, either as a guest student from one of the project partners or through the two UNIS Masters projects linked to this project: 

  • Application of the apparent impedance approach to identify the physical nature of cusp transients and waves
  • Polar Research Doppler Experiment (PRIDE) – a new instrument for the detection of upper atmospheric waves

Details can be found on the UNIS guest opportunities website

Or contact the project manager, Lisa Baddeley.

Research visits

September 2022 – Masters student, Cecily Noaillac, from ISAE Supaero, France is undertaking a 6 month Masters project at UNIS as part of the project. The project (Waves in the ionosphere detected using the Polar Research Ionospheric Doppler Experiment (PRIDE)) will be responsible for setting up of a data acquisition, processing and verification system for the PRIDE instrument. The overall aim is to make a database which will be available to the wider scientific community. The instrument is designed to detect signals from atmospheric gravity waves and small scale ultra low frequency waves in the upper and middle atmosphere above Svalbard.

November 2021 – Phd candidate, Veronika Haberle, from IRAP, France visited UNIS as part of the project to attend the Masters / PhD course ‘Magnetospheric Substorms’. As part of the course she visited both the EISCAT Svalbard Radar and the Kjell Henriksen Observatory. Veronika said “The course in the Arctic has been an incredible experience that lead to lasting impressions. Witnessing and studying the impact of space weather as it unfolds directly above your head makes the whole topic substantially more comprehensible than to just study by a book. I can’t wait to be back.” You are most welcome to come back to Svalbard!

Project manager:

Project partners:

Partner institutions:
Lomonosov Moscow State University (LMU), Moscow
The Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IPE), Moscow
Institute de Recherche en Atrophysique et Planetologie (IRAP), Toulouse

External partners:
Ms. Nataliya Nosikova (IPE)
Dr. Nadezda Yagova (IPE)
Dr. Olga Kozyreva (IPE)
Dr. Vladimir Belakhovsky (PGI)
Mr. Alexander Nikitenko (PGI)

Publications and presentations:

  • Nosikova, N. S, N.Yagova, L.J. Baddeley, D. Lorentzen, and D. Sormakov (2022),An investigation into the spectral parameters of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves in the polar caps and magnetotail, Ann. Geophys., 40, 151–165, 2022
  • Kozyreva, O.V., V.A. Pilipenko, X. Shi, E.C. Bland, and L. Baddeley (2021), Polar cap ULF pulsations: Coordinated Radar-Magnetometer Observations, Problems of Geocosmos – 2020, edited by: A. Kosterov, N. Bobrov, E. Gordeev, E. Kulakov, E. Lyskova, I. Mironova, Springer Proceedings in Earth and Environmental Sciences.(10.1007/978-3-030-91467-7_32)
  • Kozyreva, O.V., V.A. Pilipenko, E.C. Bland, L.J. Baddeley, and V.I. Zakharov (2020), Periodic modulation of the upper ionosphere by ULF waves as observed simultaneously by SuperDARN radars and GPS/TEC technique, Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, doi: 10.1029/2020JA028032.
  • Kozyreva O., V. Pilipenko, R. Krasnoperov, L. Baddeley, Ya. Sakharov, and M. Dobrovolsky (2020), Fine structure of substorm and geomagnetically induced currents, Annals of Geophysics, 63, 2, GM219, doi:10.4401/ag-8198.