We present a major step forward towards accurately predicting the arrivals of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on the terrestrial planets, including the Earth. For the first time, we are able to assess a CME prediction model using data over almost a full solar cycle of observations with the Heliophysics System Observatory. We validate modeling results on 1337 CMEs observed with the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) heliospheric imagers (HI) with data from 8 years of observations by 5 spacecraft in situ in the solar wind, thereby gathering over 600 independent in situ CME detections. We use the self-similar expansion model for CME fronts assuming 60 degree longitudinal width, constant speed and constant propagation direction. Using these assumptions we find that 23%-35% of all CMEs that were predicted to hit a certain spacecraft lead to clear in situ signatures, so that for 1 correct prediction, 2 to 3 false alarms would have been issued. In addition, we find that the prediction accuracy of HI does not degrade with longitudinal separation from Earth. Arrival times are predicted on average within 2.6 +/- 16.6 hours difference to the in situ arrival time, similar to analytical and numerical modeling. We also discuss various factors that may improve the accuracy of space weather forecasting using wide-angle heliospheric imager observations. These results form a first order approximated baseline of the prediction accuracy that is possible with HI and other methods used for data by an operational space weather mission at the Sun-Earth L5 point.
C. Mostl, A. Isavnin, P. Boakes, et. al.
Fri, 3 Mar 17
Comments: 22 pages, 7 figures, 1 table, submitted to the AGU journal Space Weather on 2 March 2017