ECE Seminar or Event

A New Physics Mechanism for Space Weather-Induced Ionospheric Current Coupling to Electric Power Grids

Jamesina J. Simpson

Assistant Professor
University of New Mexico
Monday, April 02, 2012
09:00am - 10:00am
1005 EECS


About the Event

In a Nov. 2011 paper of the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics [Simpson, JGR, 116, A11308, 2011, doi:10.1029/2011JA016830], a new physics mechanism is reported for solar coronal mass ejection-induced (CME) ionospheric current coupling to electric power grids. Namely, CME-induced transient ionospheric current pulses are shown to lead to momentary intra-ionosphere charge displacements (in a similar manner of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse, but at millisecond rather than nanosecond time scales) that can induce multi-tens-of-kilovolt potentials on parallel power transmission lines. In addition to creating extreme personnel hazards, these voltages could collapse the operation of continent-spanning power grids. Until Nov. 2011, investigations of the effects of CMEs on the operation of power grids had been limited to long time-scales and focused upon the disruptive effects of geomagnetically induced currents (GICs). For the first time in [Simpson, JGR, 116, A11308, 2011, doi:10.1029/2011JA016830], global, full-vector Maxwell’s equations finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) models are used to consider transient phenomena and hazards, including the ionospheric charge displacements reported. These FDTD results serve as an aid to our understanding of the early-time electrodynamics and risks associated with space weather on the Earth-ionosphere system and the operation of power grids.


Dr. Simpson obtained the B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, in 2003 and 2007, respectively. Her Ph.D. advisor was Prof. Allen Taflove, a pioneer of the finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) method since 1972. As a graduate student, Dr. Simpson was a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, and also received fellowships, awards, and grants-in-aid from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Antennas and Propagation Society (AP-S), IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S), McCormick School of Engineering, and Intel Corporation. She worked through a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Prof. Heyno Garbe's Electromagnetic Compatibility Lab at the University of Hannover, Germany in summer of 2002. In summers of 2003 - 2006, she worked as an engineering intern at Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, OR. In August 2007, Dr. Simpson joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at the University of New Mexico (UNM) as a tenure-track assistant professor. Her research lab encompasses the application of FDTD to modeling electromagnetic phenomena at frequencies over 15 orders of magnitude (~1 Hz vs. ~600 THz). While at UNM, Prof. Simpson's research activities have been funded by Sandia National Labs, Intel Corporation, the Department of Energy, the UNM Research Allocations Committee, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prof. Simpson also has received a number of awards for her research and teaching, including a 2010 NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award (entitled ŗ-D Global Full-Maxwell's Equations Modeling of the Effects of a Coronal Mass Ejection on the Earth"), a 2011 Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship, and the 2012 Donald G. Dudley, Jr. Undergraduate Teaching Award of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society. She currently serves as associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation.

Additional Information

Contact: Linda Scovel

Phone: 734-763-3260


Sponsor: ECE

Open to: Public