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Influence of the Ambient Solar Wind Flow on the Propagation Behavior of Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections

Influence of the Ambient Solar Wind Flow on the Propagation Behavior of Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections

Publication date: 20 December 2011

Authors: Temmer, M. et al

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal
Volume: 743
Issue: 2
Page: 101
Year: 2011

Copyright: IOP Publishing Ltd.

We study three coronal mass ejection (CME)/interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME) events (2008 June 1-6, 2009 February 13-18, and 2010 April 3-5) tracked from Sun to 1 AU in remote-sensing observations of Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory Heliospheric Imagers and in situ plasma and magnetic field measurements. We focus on the ICME propagation in interplanetary (IP) space that is governed by two forces: the propelling Lorentz force and the drag force. We address the question: which heliospheric distance range does the drag become dominant and the CME adjust to the solar wind flow. To this end, we analyze speed differences between ICMEs and the ambient solar wind flow as a function of distance. The evolution of the ambient solar wind flow is derived from ENLIL three-dimensional MHD model runs using different solar wind models, namely, Wang-Sheeley-Arge and MHD-Around-A-Sphere. Comparing the measured CME kinematics with the solar wind models, we find that the CME speed becomes adjusted to the solar wind speed at very different heliospheric distances in the three events under study: from below 30 solar radii, to beyond 1 AU, depending on the CME and ambient solar wind characteristics. ENLIL can be used to derive important information about the overall structure of the background solar wind, providing more reliable results during times of low solar activity than during times of high solar activity. The results from this study enable us to obtain greater insight into the forces acting on CMEs over the IP space distance range, which is an important prerequisite for predicting their 1 AU transit times.

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