Climate And Weather of the Sun-Earth System

A new SCOSTEP Program for 2004-2008

A Brief History of the SCOSTEP Program

SCOSTEP's history is written in the accomplishments of international scientific programs arising from ICSU Unions and Associations. It began just before the International Geophysical Year (IGY: 1957/58) and continued through the International Quiet Sun Year (IQSY: 1964/65). These programs led to the creation of the first SCOSTEP, the Special Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Some disciplines involved in Solar-Terrestrial Physics pre-date the 20th century. For example, Galileo first made telescopic sunspot observations early in the 17th century. Uses of the geomagnetic field have been made since the 11th-12th centuries, and the association of field changes with aurorae dates from the mid-18th century. The modern era has been significant for the discoveries made, networks of uniform instruments established, and international scientific programs conducted. The age of artificial satellites began during the IGY. The use of computers has been a common thread in analysis, modeling, and data processing. Photography played an important role for many years, and today digital imagery is pervasive. Selected events shown on this Timeline were the beginning of STP activities from which SCOSTEP emerged, or are programs for which SCOSTEP was responsible.

The first international scientific program organized and conducted by SCOSTEP was the International Magnetospheric Study (IMS: 1976-79). During IMS, observations by constellations of satellites and flights of rockets, balloons and aircraft were coordinated with those of a global network of ground-based and sea surface sites.

Next, the Solar Maximum Year (SMY: 1979-81) was a more focused program timed to capture solar activity at the peak of Sunspot Cycle #21. The comprehensive international Middle Atmosphere Program (MAP: 1982-85) followed SMY. In MAP, SCOSTEP led its scientific community into a coordinated exploration of a previously largely ignored region, Earth's "middle atmosphere".

The Solar-Terrestrial Energy Program (STEP: 1990-1995) was SCOSTEP's effort to implement an "end-to-end" international scientific program that began with energy emitted from the Sun, tracked it through interplanetary space, studied it as it merged into the magnetosphere and modified the upper atmosphere (ionosphere and thermosphere), and finally as it was distributed through the middle atmosphere. STEP had the goal of improving our understanding of the linked solar-terrestrial system and it successfully increased the dialogue among practitioners between different STP disciplines beyond what existed in previous campaigns. STEP was formally extended through 1997 so that its ground-based scientists could cooperate with the new ISTP satellite programs.

Subsequently, from 1998-2002 SCOSTEP has concentrated on smaller programs pertaining to individual disciplines: on solar physics in its ISCS program, middle atmosphere physics in its PSMOS program, and equatorial regions in EPIC. Even during this 1998-2002 period, however, SCOSTEP has sought to further the objectives of STEP through its S-RAMP program. For example, an event-oriented multi-regional study, Space Weather Month (September 1999), was conducted by S-RAMP and used the array of ISTP satellites that are still operational.

CAWSES Office, Center for Space Physics, Boston University, 725 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, MA 02215 USA; Phone: 617/353-5990; FAX: 617/353-6463;