MS Thesis Defense: Madison Hill

Thursday, November 15, 2018, 1:00–3:00pm

Rm. 201, MacLean ESC (Rett's Room)

“Solar flare detection in SuperDARN data”


Solar flares are sudden, intense eruptions of the Sun’s surface that release X-rays and high-energy particles. When directed toward the Earth the effects of a solar flare can include disruption and complete loss of GPS and short-wave radio signals and an increase in exposure to harmful radiation, particularly in the polar regions. The incident electromagnetic radiation also affects the composition of Earth’s atmosphere, more specifically the ionosphere, by causing a dramatic increase in ionization over a widespread region.

Using a global network of over-the-horizon high-frequency (HF) scientific radars known as the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), we are able to observe distinctive signatures of solar flare-induced X-rays in the ionosphere. This thesis investigates several possible parameters that are extracted from the standard operating mode of SuperDARN radars located in the Earth's polar regions. Based on our analysis the best indicator of solar flares is an abrupt drop in the backscattered power observed on multiple beam soundings and simultaneously by more than one radar. An algorithm is given for detecting solar flares and applied to historical SuperDARN data. Skill scores to measure the performance of the algorithm are discussed along with several refinements. The work in this thesis represents a significant advancement toward real-time monitoring capabilities based solely on ground-based measurements obtained from an existing network.

Thesis Committee

For more information, contact Daryl Laware at