Geoelectric field measurement, modelling and validation during geomagnetic storms in the UK

Beggan, Ciaran D.; Richardson, Gemma S.; Baillie, Orsi; Huebert, Juliane; Thomson, Alan W.P.. 2021 Geoelectric field measurement, modelling and validation during geomagnetic storms in the UK [in special issue: Topical Issue - Geomagnetic Storms and Substorms: a Geomagnetically Induced Current perspective] Journal of space weather and space climate, 11, 37.

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Significant geoelectric fields are produced by the interaction of rapidly varying magnetic fields with the conductive Earth, particularly during intense geomagnetic activity. Though usually harmless, large or sustained geoelectric fields can damage grounded infrastructure such as high-voltage transformers and pipelines via Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GICs). A key aspect of understanding the effects of space weather on grounded infrastructure is through the spatial and temporal variation of the geoelectric field. Globally, there are few long-term monitoring sites of the geoelectric field, so in 2012 measurements of the horizontal surface field were started at Lerwick, Eskdalemuir and Hartland observatories in the UK. Between 2012 and 2020, the maximum value of the geoelectric field observed was around 1 V/km in Lerwick, 0.5 V/km in Eskdalemuir and 0.1 V/km in Hartland during the March 2015 storm. These long-term observations also allow comparisons with models of the geoelectric field to be made. We use the measurements to compute magnetotelluric impedance transfer functions at each observatory for periods from 20 to 30,000 seconds. These are then used to predict the geoelectric field at the observatory sites during selected storm times that match the recorded fields very well (correlation around 0.9). We also compute geoelectric field values from a thin-sheet model of Britain, accounting for the diverse geological and bathymetric island setting. We find the thin-sheet model captures the peak and phase of the band-passed geoelectric field reasonably well, with linear correlation of around 0.4 in general. From these two modelling approaches, we generate geoelectric field values for historic storms (March 1989 and October 2003) and find the estimates of past peak geoelectric fields of up to 1.75 V/km in Eskdalemuir. However, evidence from high voltage transformer GIC measurements during these storms suggests these estimates are likely to represent an underestimate of the true value.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Additional Keywords: geoelectric field, magnetotellurics, thin-sheet model, conductivity, geomagnetically induced currents
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 15 Jun 2021 08:37 +0 (UTC)

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