A Machine Learning Approach to Understanding the Physical Properties of Magnetic Flux Ropes in the Solar Wind at 1 au

Hameedullah Farooki, Yasser Abduallah, Sung Jun Noh, Hyomin Kim, George Bizos, Youra Shin, Jason T.L. Wang, Haimin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Interplanetary magnetic flux ropes (MFRs) are commonly observed structures in the solar wind, categorized as magnetic clouds (MCs) and small-scale MFRs (SMFRs) depending on whether they are associated with coronal mass ejections. We apply machine learning to systematically compare SMFRs, MCs, and ambient solar wind plasma properties. We construct a data set of 3-minute averaged sequential data points of the solar wind’s instantaneous bulk fluid plasma properties using about 20 years of measurements from Wind. We label samples by the presence and type of MFRs containing them using a catalog based on Grad-Shafranov (GS) automated detection for SMFRs and NASA's catalog for MCs (with samples in neither labeled non-MFRs). We apply the random forest machine learning algorithm to find which categories can be more easily distinguished and by what features. MCs were distinguished from non-MFRs with an area under the receiver-operator curve (AUC) of 94% and SMFRs with an AUC of 89%, and had distinctive plasma properties. In contrast, while SMFRs were distinguished from non-MFRs with an AUC of 86%, this appears to rely solely on the 〈B〉 > 5 nT threshold applied by the GS catalog. The results indicate that SMFRs have virtually the same plasma properties as the ambient solar wind, unlike the distinct plasma regimes of MCs. We interpret our findings as additional evidence that most SMFRs at 1 au are generated within the solar wind. We also suggest that they should be considered a salient feature of the solar wind’s magnetic structure rather than transient events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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