Keynote Speaker

Space Weather: Impact of the Space Environment on Human Technologies

Tamas I Gombosi

Konstantin I. Gringauz Distinguished University Professor of Space Science

Rollin M. Gerstacker Professor of Engineering

Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

The University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI, U. S. A.


A hundred years ago, the sun-Earth connection was of interest to only a small number of scientists. Solar activity had little effect on daily life. Today, a single strong solar eruption could bring civilization to its knees. Modern society has come to depend on technologies sensitive to solar radiation and geomagnetic storms. Particularly vulnerable are power grids, interplanetary robotic and human exploration, satellite operations and communications, and GPS navigation. These technologies are woven into the fabric of daily life, from health care and finance to basic utilities. At present, we have a fleet “Heliophysics System Observatory” of dedicated spacecraft contributing data for space weather.

Faculty and students in the College of Engineering of the University of Michigan participated in space weather related research, going back to early studies of the upper atmosphere by high-altitude rockets. This presentation will describe the basic processes controlling space weather together with observational, modeling and forecasting efforts by CoE researchers.

Scientific Biography

A native of Hungary, Professor Gombosi was educated in theoretical physics. In the mid-1970s he was the first foreign national to do postdoctoral research at the Space Research Institute (IKI) in Moscow, where he participated in theoretical studies of the solar wind interaction with Venus and in data interpretation of the first Venus orbiters, Venera-9 and Venera-10. At IKI he worked under the direction of Konstantin Gringauz, Roald Sagdeev, Albert Galeev and Vitalii Shapiro. A few years later he came to the U.S. to participate in theoretical work related to NASA’s Venus exploration.

In the early 1980s he played a leading role in the planning and implementation of the international VEGA mission to Venus and Halley’s comet. As project scientist for Hungary he actively participated in the design of several in situ and remote sensing instruments (such as the imaging system, the energetic particle detector, and the plasma spectrometer). In addition to his involvement in cometary missions he also carried out pioneering theoretical work in the emerging field of cometary plasma physics.

In the mid 1980s he permanently moved to the U.S., and in 1987 he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, where presently he is the Konstantin Gringauz Distinguished University Professor of Space Science, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Professor of Engineering, Professor of Space Science and Professor of Aerospace Engineering. In addition, he is the founding Director of the Center for Space Environment Modeling.

At Michigan he established close interdisciplinary collaborations with computational fluid dynamics and computational science faculty and formed a tightly integrated group of faculty and students that pioneered high performance simulation technology of space plasmas extending from the solar surface to cometary and planetary magnetospheres and ionospheres, to the outer edges of the solar system.

His present research includes:
• Development of the first generation of first-principles-based predictive global space weather simulation codes,
• Physics of planetary space environments (including Earth, planetary satellites and comets),
• Theoretical investigations of plasma transport in various regions of the heliosphere,
• Fundamental kinetic theory of gases and plasmas, and
• Multi-scale MHD simulations of solar system plasmas on solution adaptive unstructured grids.
• Physics-based, end-to-end modeling of space weather phenomena (from Sun to ground).

He also continues to participate in the exploration of the space environment and the solar system. He
was Interdisciplinary Scientist of the international Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon, Titan. He was Chair of Working Group X (providing modeling support for the mission) and Co-Investigator of the ROSINA ion-neutral mass spectrometer on the international Rosetta mission that explored comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Professor Gombosi is Co-Investigator of the IMPACT plasma instrument on NASA’s STEREO mission to explore solar storms, and member of the science team of the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission. In addition, he is Principal Investigator of several large interdisciplinary research efforts.