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U.S. Coordinating Group of SCOSTEP

SCOSTEP Overview

The National Academy of Sciences is the U.S. adhering member of Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP), an interdisciplinary body of the International Council for Science (ICSU).

Through its programs, SCOSTEP advances scientific knowledge of solar terrestrial physics (STP), supports a globally-aware and engaged STP community, and promotes the development of early-career STP scientists. SCOSTEP provides the necessary scientific framework for international collaboration and dissemination of the derived scientific knowledge, in collaboration with other ICSU bodies.

These bodies include the Committee of Space Research (COSPAR), International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA), International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS), International Astronomical Union (IAU), International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and the International Union of Radio Science (URSI). SCOSTEP is also a permanent observer at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS).

For an introduction to SCOSTEP's ongoing VarSITI program, explained in detail below, watch this brief YouTube video on geomagnetic storms and their influence on Earth.

SCOSTEP Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Symposia
Planning is well underway for SCOSTEP's 14th Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium (STP14), which will be held July 9-13, 2018 at York University, Toronto, Canada. The meeting will highlight the achievements of the VarSITI program and continue planning of SCOSTEP’s next scientific program (2019-2022).  As described on the STP14 registration page (, “The scientific sessions of STP14 will feature the three major chains of physical processes operating in the solar-terrestrial domain: (i) the mass chain in the form of plasma and particles emitted from the Sun, (ii) the electromagnetic radiation chain in the form of irradiance and flare emissions, and (iii) the intra-atmospheric chain representing energy flow from the Earth into space.”

VarSITI: SCOSTEP's Current Scientific Program
SCOSTEP’s current scientific program is Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact (VarSITI). VarSITI promotes and facilitates international collaboration in data analysis, modeling, and theory to understand how solar variability affects the Earth, and is scheduled to end in 2018.  Of the 1,016 VarSITI scientists representing 71 countries, 93 are from the United States.

VarSITI has four scientific elements:
  1. Solar Evolution and Extrema (SEE)
  2. International Study of Earth Affecting Solar Transients (ISEST)/MiniMax24
  3. Specification and Prediction of the Coupled Inner-Magnetospheric Environment (SPeCImeN)
  4. Role Of the Sun and the Middle atmosphere/thermosphere/ionosphere In Climate (ROSMIC)

Three of these have project co-leaders from the United States:

  • SEE: Petrus Martens, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • ISEST: Jie Zhang, George Mason University; and Nat Gopalswamy, NASA Goddard
  • SPeCIMEN: Jacob Bortnik, University of California, Los Angeles; and Shri Kanekal, NASA Goddard

Nine meetings and four databases were supported by VarSITI and its projects in 2017.  In 2018, SCOSTEP expects to support 20 meetings and six databases.

For an introduction to SCOSTEP's ongoing VarSITI program, explained in detail below, watch this brief YouTube video on geomagnetic storms and their influence on Earth.

Planning Underway for New SCOSTEP Scientific Program, 2019-2022
Planning for 2019-2022 is described by Nat Gopalswamy in an article, “Effort towards the Next Scientific Program at SCOSTEP,” that appeared in the VarSITI Newsletter (  Dr. Gopalswamy reports:

“One of the steps that we initiated last year to start discussing the next scientific program (NSP) was to hold a joint session with COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) during the 41st General Assembly in Istanbul. Unfortunately, the assembly was cancelled due to the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt. However, a townhall meeting was conducted at the Fall Meeting (December 2016) of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), where several community leaders presented their ideas.

One of the positive outcomes of the interaction with COSPAR is the involvement of the Main Scientific Organizers (MSOs) of COSPAR sessions relevant to STP. SCOSTEP has its own Scientific Discipline Representatives (SDRs) who provide a collective scientific expertise that covers the range of STP sub-disciplines. The SDRs not only collectively serve as a source of scientific advice to SCOSTEP, they also generate proposals for new programs. The SDR pool is important in identifying SCOSTEP leaders for running scientific programs and serving on various subcommittees. Thus the combined set of MSOs and SDRs has been contacted in generating input. Of course, we need to reach out to the entire STP community via various communication means to make sure that an outstanding scientific program is established.

The effort that has been initiated aims at developing community consensus in defining the NSP. The process of reaching a consensus obviously need to include surveys of (i) current status of STP, (ii) knowledge gaps, (iii) future directions in observations, theory and modeling needed to fill the gaps. In order to coordinate the activities related to NSP, the Bureau has established a committee of international experts that is charged with defining the NSP and provide a report to the Bureau. [T]he membership of the NSP committee [is as follows:]
Ioannis Daglis (Chair), Greece
Loren Chang of National Central University, Taiwan
Sergio Dasso, INAF, Argentina
Sarah Gibson NCAR, USA
Dan Marsh, NCAR USA
Katja Mathes, Germany
Dibyendu Nandi ISSER/Kolkata India
Vladimir Obridko Russia
Annika Seppӓlӓ, University of Otago, New Zealand
Rémi Thiéblemont LATMOS, France
Qiugong Zong, Peking University, China
“The SCOSTEP executives and VarSITI co-chairs will serve as ex-officio members of the subcommittee and support your deliberations. The NSP committee will solicit input from the community on the key issues that need to be addressed in making progress in solar terrestrial physics. In particular, issues related to the following topics were recommended by the Bureau:
Solar Dynamo and the Solar Cycle
Solar Activity in the Coming Decades
Solar electromagnetic emission and climate
Solar mass emission and climate
Solar Flares and their Geospace impact
CMEs and their Geospace Impact
Coronal Holes and their Geospace impact
Energetic particles in the inner heliosphere
Geospace and Atmospheric Impact of Energetic Particles
New Developments in Magnetospheric Studies
Space Weather
Terrestrial Weather – Space Weather Connection
“The NSP committee will have full freedom in organizing focused sessions during meetings. A significant target would be a panel discussion during STP 14 to be held in Toronto Canada during July 9-13, 2018. ISSI is willing to host two Fora, one in Beijing and the other in Bern. This is very significant because we can minimize the cost by holding two ISSI meetings, while maximizing the participation from the global community. We ask that a quarterly progress report be sent to SCOSTEP.

We anticipate that the inputs from the community will be compiled and developed into a document that will be used by the SCOSTEP Bureau in defining the next SCOSTEP scientific program. We anticipate the report to be ready by the end of 2018, so the Bureau will have enough time to discuss and endorse the report during its Bureau meeting in April 2019.”

United Nations/U.S. Workshop on International Space Weather Initiative
The United Nations/United States Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative was held at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, on July 31-August 4, 2017.  As noted in SCOSTEP’s Annual Report (1 January – 31 December 2017),  “The workshop marked the 10th anniversary of the International Heliophysical Year (IHY), and addressed future international cooperation in space weather activities linked to the preparations for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50) under its thematic priority 4, ‘International framework for space weather services’.   

The focus of this workshop was on recent advances made in scientific research by utilizing ISWI instrument data in conjunction with space mission data in adding significant new knowledge on space weather phenomena near Earth and interplanetary space. It highlighted achievements made over the past ten years and showcased the worldwide development of science, capacity building, and outreach.  

This workshop led to the:  (i) Creation of an international coordination mechanisms of operational space weather services, including monitoring, forecasting, awareness raising, with the overall goal to protect life, property and critical infrastructure; and (ii) Recommendations for improved collection, exchange and delivery of space weather data, as well as improved operational analysis, modelling and forecasting methods through the promotion of best practices, suggestions of means to improve accuracy, reliability and interoperability.”

Capacity Building and Education
Capacity building and education are important to SCOSTEP.  Activities include summer schools for young scientists, a SCOSTEP Visiting Scholar (SVS) program, and STP comic books for the public. 

The objective of the SVS program is to provide training to young scientists and graduate students from developing countries in well-established solar terrestrial physics laboratories and institutions, for periods of between one and three months. The program provides provides airfare for young scientists/graduate students, while the hosting lab generally providse living expenses (accommodation, sustenance, ground transportation, visa fees and other incidentals).  In 2017, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center hosted two SVS scientists, Sanchita Pal and Ashna Malayil, both from India.  More information on SVS can be found at
SCOSTEP also sponsors a series of ‘Comic Books’ designed to raise the awareness of the general public, and young people in particular, about issues in solar-terrestrial science. Originally produced in Japanese, the books have been translated into English and multiple other languages. Sample titles include “What are the Polar Regions?!" and “What is the Geomagnetic Field?!To access the complete collection of SCOSTEP ‘Comic Books,’ please visit the SCOSTEP website

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number AGS-1240434. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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