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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 2
Ann. Geophys., 15, 181–196, 1997
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-997-0181-4
© European Geosciences Union 1997
Ann. Geophys., 15, 181–196, 1997
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00585-997-0181-4
© European Geosciences Union 1997

  28 Feb 1997

28 Feb 1997

Uncertainties in field-line tracing in the magnetosphere.
Part II: the complete internal geomagnetic field

D. M. Willis*,1, J. Robin Singh2,1, and K. S. C. Freeman1 D. M. Willis et al.
  • 1Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0QX, UK
  • 2School of Mathematical and Information Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, CV1 5FB, UK
  • *Also Visiting Reader in Physics, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QH, UK

Abstract. The discussion in the preceding paper is restricted to the uncertainties in magnetic-field-line tracing in the magnetosphere resulting from published standard errors in the spherical harmonic coefficients that define the axisymmetric part of the internal geomagnetic field (i.e. gn0 ± δgn0). Numerical estimates of these uncertainties based on an analytic equation for axisymmetric field lines are in excellent agreement with independent computational estimates based on stepwise numerical integration along magnetic field lines. This comparison confirms the accuracy of the computer program used in the present paper to estimate the uncertainties in magnetic-field-line tracing that arise from published standard errors in the full set of spherical harmonic coefficients, which define the complete (non-axisymmetric) internal geomagnetic field (i.e. gnm ± δgnm and hnm ± δhnm). An algorithm is formulated that greatly reduces the computing time required to estimate these uncertainties in magnetic-field-line tracing. The validity of this algorithm is checked numerically for both the axisymmetric part of the internal geomagnetic field in the general case (1 ≤ n ≤ 10) and the complete internal geomagnetic field in a restrictive case (0 ≤ mn, 1 ≤ n ≤ 3). On this basis it is assumed that the algorithm can be used with confidence in those cases for which the computing time would otherwise be prohibitively long. For the complete internal geomagnetic field, the maximum characteristic uncertainty in the geocentric distance of a field line that crosses the geomagnetic equator at a nominal dipolar distance of 2 RE is typically 100 km. The corresponding characteristic uncertainty for a field line that crosses the geomagnetic equator at a nominal dipolar distance of 6 RE is typically 500 km. Histograms and scatter plots showing the characteristic uncertainties associated with magnetic-field-line tracing in the magnetosphere are presented for a range of illustrative examples. Finally, estimates are given for the maximum uncertainties in the locations of the conjugate points of selected geophysical observatories. Numerical estimates of the uncertainties in magnetic-field-line tracing in the magnetosphere, including the associated uncertainties in the locations of the conjugate points of geophysical observatories, should be regarded as "first approximations'' in the sense that these estimates are only as accurate as the published standard errors in the full set of spherical harmonic coefficients. As in the preceding paper, however, all computational techniques developed in this paper can be used to derive more realistic estimates of the uncertainties in magnetic-field-line tracing in the magnetosphere, following further progress in the determination of more accurate standard errors in the spherical harmonic coefficients.

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