Using Forbush Decreases to Derive the Transit Time of ICMEs Propagating from 1 AU to Mars


The propagation of 15 interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) from Earth’s orbit (1 AU) to Mars (∼1.5 AU) has been studied with their propagation speed estimated from both measurements and simulations. The enhancement of magnetic fields related to ICMEs and their shock fronts causes the so-called Forbush decrease, which can be detected as a reduction of galactic cosmic rays measured on ground. We have used galactic cosmic ray (GCR) data from in situ measurements at Earth, from both STEREO A and STEREO B as well as GCR measurements by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument on board Mars Science Laboratory on the surface of Mars. A set of ICME events has been selected during the periods when Earth (or STEREO A or STEREO B) and Mars locations were nearly aligned on the same side of the Sun in the ecliptic plane (so-called opposition phase). Such lineups allow us to estimate the ICMEs’ transit times between 1 and 1.5 AU by estimating the delay time of the corresponding Forbush decreases measured at each location. We investigate the evolution of their propagation speeds before and after passing Earth’s orbit and find that the deceleration of ICMEs due to their interaction with the ambient solar wind may continue beyond 1 AU. We also find a substantial variance of the speed evolution among different events revealing the dynamic and diverse nature of eruptive solar events. Furthermore, the results are compared to simulation data obtained from two CME propagation models, namely the Drag-Based Model and ENLIL plus cone model.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics