What is it about?

Network analysis is a methodology used to investigate the structure and dynamics of a system by identifying objects (nodes) and connections between objects (edges). These methods originated in the social sciences in which people are the objects and connections are defined by the presence of a predefined relationship between people. Network analysis has since flourished and been used to provide new scientific discovery in a broad range of disciplines, including biological, engineering, and geophysical systems. We use this approach to investigate the near-Earth ionized space environment, the ionosphere. Performing a novel network analysis of total electron content (TEC) data, significant structure emerges. Notably, dayside and nightside ionospheric TEC effects are distinct. Further, within the dayside and nightside systems distinct regions emerge in response to space weather activity. We suggest that network analysis can provide significant new, and complementary, understanding of the Earth's space environment and outline important future directions. This work illustrates the importance of data-driven discovery to improve understanding of our space environment and underscores the broader theme of embracing data science in the discipline of heliophysics.

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Why is it important?

We present a new approach to the analysis of high‐latitude, hemispheric‐specific, TEC data known as network analysis. Network analysis [Boccaletti et al., 2006] has been a valuable tool in many fields of research, originating in the social sciences [Milgram, 1967] and finding more recent application in biological, engineering, and geophysical systems [Tsonis et al., 2006; Donges et al., 2009; Steinhaeuser et al., 2012; Malik et al., 2012; Dods et al., 2015, 2017]. However, this methodology has never before been applied to TEC data.


This work embraces the need for more expressive structures to represent complex physical systems. The advent of 'networks' as just such structures across the sciences motivates the application to the space environment. Our analyses show that networks, and network/complexity science, are a critical tool for 21st century space science.

Mr Ryan M McGranaghan
University of Colorado Boulder

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This page is a summary of: Finding multiscale connectivity in our geospace observational system: Network analysis of total electron content, Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics, July 2017, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/2017ja024202.
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