Presentation #101.05 in the session Universality of Mesoscale Processes in Space and Solar Physics.
Earth’s magnetosphere is vast, too large to be studied by any single space agency or mission in any comprehensive manner. ISTP, although revolutionary for its time, provided only a low-fidelity picture of how the magnetosphere as a whole responds to the unceasing solar wind that continuously buffets it. We have learned from ISTP and the missions that followed that the magnetosphere acts as a “System of Systems” connected via mesoscale ‘connectors’ and ‘messengers’. Each magnetospheric system has its own dynamics and characteristics that can be, and have been, studied separately. Yet, there is a clear need to study the way the systems within the larger geospace system interact with each other and lead to emergent phenomena: for example, how magnetotail dynamics lead to ring current enhancements; how ionospheric outflow modifies magnetospheric response; how meso- and macro-scale reconnection and boundary waves regulates the transfer of energy from the solar wind and foreshock/bow shock into the magnetosphere. This cross-scale, system science currently relies on ad-hoc and chance alignments of largely uncoordinated missions. Therefore, while great progress has been made on targeted mission science objectives, a broader, cohesive, and intentional program to study the entire systems of systems has potential to revolutionize our understanding in ways not possible today. With the revelation that mesoscale dynamics (~1-3 RE in scale) are both ubiquitous and central to magnetospheric dynamics, the science questions are dictating that we need a large undertaking to answer these questions. Such an undertaking would involve multiple constellations of spacecraft in key regions to resolve the “missing middle” of the mesoscales, combined with remote imaging measurements, ground-based measurements, and advanced numerical modeling, all coordinated and working in concert to study Geospace holistically, as a system, at the scale sizes that we now know are driving the overall dynamics. It would move beyond the limited view afforded by ISTP and the current ad hoc heliophysics system observatory to provide critically needed understanding of our dynamic space environment. To enable this vision, we have established a new COSPAR Task Group on establishing an International Geospace Systems Program (IGSP). In this talk we summarize the science questions that are motivating our desire to create such a program, outline our approach towards building community support and stakeholder engagement, and discuss how a program could fit within a larger, community-wide effort to understand mesoscales throughout the heliosphere.