York hosts scientists from across the globe at symposium on sun-Earth environment

Attendees of the 14th th Qquadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium, hosted by York University
Attendees of the 14th th Qquadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium, hosted by York University

One hundred and fifty scientists from across the globe gathered at York University July 9 to 13 for the 14th Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium (STP14). Scientists came from Canada, the U.S., Japan, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Germany, the U.K., Norway, Poland, Austria, Finland and New Zealand to discuss the detailed relationships between the Earth and the sun.

Attendees of the 14th quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium, hosted by York University
Attendees of the 14th Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium hosted by York University

At the opening session, attendees were welcomed by the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) President Nat Gopalswamy (NASA); Regina Lee (associate dean, Research and Graduate Studies, Lassonde School of Engineering); Jim Whiteway (director, CRESS); and Eric Laliberté (Canadian Space Agency). This was followed by a presentation on the history of solar-terrestrial science in Canada by David Boteler of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and a description of the Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact (VarSITI) program within SCOSTEP given by Kazuo Shiokawa of Nagoya University in Japan.

The five-day event included sessions, a lunch, a reception and a formal dinner that included an Indigenous presentation of pow wow drumming and dancing. Attendees ranged from distinguished scientists to graduate students.

A great deal has been learned about the sun, from its sunspots that move in a patterned manner during each 11-year cycle, to nature and characteristics of its explosive events, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. All these phenomena are now called “space weather,” which was a primary focus of the event. Much of the discussion during the symposium was centred on the extent to which these outbursts, on both very short and longer time scales, could be predicted. This is important in everyday life, as these outbursts can damage satellites, cause the shutdown of electrical power systems and disrupt communications. The conclusion was that although these events are much better understood than before, predictability is still elusive.

The implementation of the event, including registration and the audio-visual support, was provided by Lassonde graduate students and postdoctoral fellows Hassan Alkomy, Ryan Clark, Samira Eshghi, Junchan Lee, Marc Savoie and Ali Syed.

Marianna Shepherd (York University), scientific secretary for SCOSTEP and Chair of the local organizing committee, was responsible for the organization of the STP14, coordinating with the various offices within York University.

A portion of the registration fee paid by the attendees was made available to support early career scientists and graduate students, providing a broad spectrum of experience.

The event was sponsored by the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science (CRESS), with support from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, SCOSTEP, the National Science Foundation, the Core-to-Core Program of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Project for Solar-Terrestrial Environment Predictions, Japan, and the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA). SCOSTEP is an international interdisciplinary body under the International Science Council, and is responsible for the investigation of the sun-Earth environment. Illustrations of the sun’s environment can be seen on the STP14 website, scostepevents.ca, and SCOSTEP’s website, yorku.ca/scostep.