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RADIO SCIENCE, VOL. 41, RS4016, doi:10.

1029/2005RS003285, 2006

Forecasting total electron content maps


by neural network technique
Ersin Tulunay,1,2 Erdem Turker Senalp,1 Sandro Maria Radicella,3
and Yurdanur Tulunay4
Received 11 May 2005; revised 24 May 2006; accepted 13 June 2006; published 17 August 2006.
[1] Near-Earth space processes are highly nonlinear. Since the 1990s, a small group at the
Middle East Technical University in Ankara has been working on a data-driven generic
model of such processes, that is, forecasting and nowcasting of a near-Earth space
parameter of interest. The model developed is called the Middle East Technical University
Neural Network (METU-NN) model. The METU-NN is a data-driven neural network
model of one hidden layer and several neurons. In order to understand more about the
complex response of the magnetosphere and ionosphere to extreme solar events, we chose
this time the series of space weather events in November 2003. Total electron content
(TEC) values of the ionosphere are forecast during these space weather events. In order to
facilitate an easier interpretation of the forecast TEC values, maps of TEC are produced by
using the Bezier surface-fitting technique.
Citation: Tulunay, E., E. T. Senalp, S. M. Radicella, and Y. Tulunay (2006), Forecasting total electron content maps by neural
network technique, Radio Sci., 41, RS4016, doi:10.1029/2005RS003285.

1. Introduction able mathematical model agreed upon up to now to our


knowledge.
[2] Unpredictable variability of the ionospheric param- [4] Neural networks are data-driven (data-based) mod-
eters due to space weather borne disturbances limits the eling approaches inspired by simplified human brain
efficiency of communications, radar, and navigation processing. They provide parallel processing of complex
systems. Forecasting the number of electrons in a column nonlinear processes. Neurons in neural networks are
of 1 m2 cross section along a path through the ionosphere defined as information-processing units consisting of
or the total electron content (TEC) values is crucial for connecting links, an adder, and activation function. The
satellite-based navigation systems, especially in the dis- adder is for summing bias and the input signals weighted
turbed space weather conditions. For more information, in the neurons connecting links. An activation function
see Space Weather Total Electron Content of the follows the adder for limiting the extreme amplitudes of
Ionosphere, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, http:// the output of the neuron [Haykin, 1999]. An artificial
www.chilbolton.rl.ac.uk/weather/tec.htm. neural network is a system of interconnected computa-
[3] It is most desirable to drive mathematical iono- tional elements, the neurons, operating in parallel, ar-
spheric forecasting and mapping models based on phys- ranged in patterns similar to biological neural nets
ics to incorporate them in ionospheric services and and modeled after the human brain [Tulunay, 1991; Y.
activities. However, this is a very complex and prohib- Tulunay et al., 2004a].
itively difficult task. There has been no concrete, adopt- [5] The architecture of neural networks is formed by
1
determination of the neuron structures and their connec-
Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Middle East
Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.
tions. In a layered neural network, the neurons are
2
Marmara Research Center, Information Technologies Institute, organized in the form of layers. In multilayer feed-
Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, Kocaeli, forward neural networks, source nodes in input layer
Turkey.
3
project onto hidden neurons in the hidden layer. The last
Aeronomy and Radiopropagation Laboratory, Abdus Salam hidden layer in the architecture projects onto an output
International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy.
4
Department of Aerospace Engineering, Middle East Technical layer of nodes. Those networks are strictly feed forward,
University, Ankara, Turkey. and they are fully connected in the sense that every
neuron in each layer of the network is connected to every
Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union. other neuron in the adjacent forward layer [Haykin,
0048-6604/06/2005RS003285 1999; Y. Tulunay et al., 2004a].
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Table 1. Selection of the Time Periods for the Input Data information concerning mapping and Bezier surfaces is
presented in section 4. In this work, up to 1 hour in
Phase Year Days
advance forecast of the 10 min TEC maps over Europe
Train 2003 1 15 Nov during November 2003 space weather events using the
Test 2003 30 Nov to 11 Dec METU-NN and Bezier surfaces has been introduced and
Validation 2003 16 29 Nov the results are presented.
[9] Neural network models are designed and trained
with significant inputs. In our approach, the basic inputs
for the model are the past TEC values and the temporal
[6] Neural network based approaches are promising inputs as explained in section 3. No other parameters are
in modeling of ionospheric processes [Tulunay, 1991; used in inputs. This is the first time METU-NN-based
Williscroft and Poole, 1996; Altinay et al., 1997; Cander TEC forecast mappings are introduced, and the forecast
et al., 1998; Wintoft and Cander, 1999; Francis et al., results are promising for system operators. This paper
2000; Y. Tulunay et al., 2001, 2004b; Vernon and leads to availability of TEC forecast mapping results for
Cander, 2002; E. Tulunay et al., 2004; Radicella making comparisons in future studies. The neural net-
and Tulunay, 2004; Stamper et al., 2004; McKinnell work architecture of METU-NN is modular. Because of
and Poole, 2004]. Space weather centers provide fore- modularity, the model and its input parameters are open
casts of solar and geophysical parameters. As an exam- to new developments depending on future requirements.
ple, the Lund Space Weather Center uses artificial The subblocks in the METU-NN have one input layer,
intelligence (AI) in its methods to forecast Kp parameters one hidden layer with the neurons, and one output layer.
[Boberg et al., 2000]. The neural network is trained and is used to forecast the
[7] In general, mapping of an ionospheric quantity TEC values for the grids located over Europe. Using
such as foF2 or TEC means that a surface fitting is these forecast TEC values of the grids, TEC maps as
performed on the basis of known values of that quantity Bezier surfaces are presented.
on specified points of a surface. Mapping carried out by [10] The main contributions of this work are organiza-
using a certain method extrapolates the known discrete tion of data for teaching complex processes, neural
values continuously to the whole surface. There are network based modeling of a highly complex nonlinear
various widely used ionospheric mapping techniques process such as TEC mapping, and general demonstra-
using both the ionosonde-derived TEC and the GPS- tion of learning capability by calculating cross correla-
TEC [Samardjiev et al., 1993; Cander, 2003; Jakowski et tions and general demonstration of reaching a proper
al., 2004; Stamper et al., 2004; Zolesi et al., 2004]. operating point by calculating errors. The METU-NN
Samardjiev et al. [1993] used contouring techniques for model can also be used in filling data gaps.
ionospheric mapping including Kriging technique, which
performs best when compared with inverse distance
squared technique and minimum curvature technique. 2. Preparation of Data for the METU-NN
Cander [2003] discussed the findings of the European [11] Ten minute vertical TEC data have been evaluated
Union Action COST 251 and plans for the COST 271 on from the GPS measurements that took place between 1
TEC forecast and mapping. Jakowski et al. [2004] and November and 11 December 2003 over Europe centered
Stamper et al. [2004] presented near-real-time and real- over Italy on the basis of slant TEC data (G. Ciraolo,
time TEC mappings over Europe. Zolesi et al. [2004] private communication, 2004). The geographic coverage
presented a method based on a regional model of the of the TEC data is between latitudes of (35.5N, 47.5N)
standard vertical incidence monthly median ionospheric and longitudes of (5.5E, 19.5E). The data belong to the
characteristics, which was updated with real-time iono- 104 grid locations spaced every 2 longitude by 1
spheric observations for mapping of ionospheric condi- latitude intervals in space. These data consisted of the
tions over Europe. It is suitable to be used in real time for training, test, and validation subsets during the develop-
operational applications. These studies did not report ment and operation modes of the modeling process.
mapping based on forecasts. [12] Table 1 illustrates how the data were assigned to
[8] In this work, a method was developed to perform be employed by the METU-NN model during the train-
neural network based TEC forecast mapping for the ing, test, and validation modes. In particular, the
first time to the best knowledge of the authors. The period of major space weather events was chosen for
Middle East Technical University Neural Network the validation mode. That is, the solar active region,
(METU-NN) model [Y. Tulunay et al., 2004a] was used the sunspot group 484 (or near the sunspot group 501),
to produce TEC forecast maps over Europe using Bezier was the seat of a major coronal mass ejection (CME) on
surfaces which are being used for surface generation in 18 November 2003. This CME triggered a geomagnetic
computer graphics [Rogers and Adams, 1990]. Brief storm on 20 November 2003 at around 0800 UT.
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This storm was qualified by the 3 hour planetary mag- terminated until the gradient of the error becomes near
netic index of Kp as 8+. For more information, see zero again. Thus the model parameters are optimized and
News and information about the Sun-Earth Environ- are fixed at the end of the construction procedure. In the
ment, http://www.spaceweather.com, and National operation mode, Bezier surface maps of the validation
Geophysical Data Center, ftp://ftp.ngdc.noaa.gov/STP/ data are used for calculating the errors, point by point, to
GEOMAGNETIC_DATA/INDICES/KP_AP/. However, measure the performance of the model.
in principle, all the data subsets were chosen from [15] The value of the TEC at the time instant k is
periods of similar Zurich sunspot numbers. The models designated by f(k). The output is f(k + 10) in 10 min in
contain intrinsic information about the solar activity. advance forecasts and f(k + 60) in 60 min in advance
forecasts. It is the value of the TEC to be observed up to
1 hour later than the present time for this work. There
3. Construction of the Neural are 419 inputs fed into the METU-NN model. Three of
the inputs are the temporal inputs, i.e., dnd, Cm, and Sm.
NetworkBased Model The rest of the input parameters are the inputs related
[13] The construction work of the neural network to the history of the TEC values for the grids over
based model is carried out in the development mode. It is Europe, i.e., 104 f(k) values, 104 D1(k) values, 104
composed of a training phase or learning phase and a D2(k) values, and 104 RD(k) values. Table 2 presents
test phase [Y. Tulunay et al., 2004a]. Training and test the input parameters employed for present values of the
phases are best performed with independent but statisti- TEC for the grids,
cally similar data sets. The METU-NN model, similar to f k TEC k ; 1
neural network modeling in general, employs a large
amount of data and considerable computing time. It is first differences,
natural that the nonlinear inherent processes are to be
learned by the model during the learning phase as fast as D1 k f k  f k  h; 2
possible. The Levenberg-Marquardt back-propagation
algorithm is chosen to be the most convenient one during
second differences,
the training and development phases for this work. The
Levenberg-Marquardt algorithm is an approximation to D2 k D1 k  D1 k  h; 3
Newtons method [Hagan and Menhaj, 1994; Haykin,
1999]. Instead of the basic back-propagation algorithm, relative differences,
the Levenberg-Marquardt back-propagation algorithm
RDk D1 k =f k ; 4
using the approximation to Newtons method is faster
in terms of computation time and is more accurate near serial date number difference, dnd, where dnd is present
an error minimum. The Newtons method modification date number minus the first date number of the data of
to the steepest descent algorithm and random initializa- interest,
tions of the model parameters provide the model param-
eters to reach near-global optimum values in the training. dnd k dnk  dn1; 5
[14] As the training advances, the training error starts
cosine component of the minute, m, of the day,
to decrease, and it eventually goes to zero. Zero error
corresponds to a memorization state. Memorization
means the loss of the generalization capability of the Cm  cos2pm=1440; 6
neural network. The METU-NN model parameters are
recorded when the gradient of the error in the validation
phase of the development procedure becomes near zero.
To prevent memorization, the training is halted immedi-
ately. Also, independent validation data are used. Errors Table 2. Input Parameters of the METU-NN Blocks
are then calculated again. The decrease in the validation
Input Parameters Notation
error is noted. Training is restarted, and the training cycle
is repeated. When the gradient of the error in the Present values of the TEC for the grids TEC(k)
validation phase becomes near zero and if the error is First differences for the grids D1(k)
then an increasing sequence, a stop training signal is Second difference for the grid D2(k)
Relative difference for the grid RD(k)
produced, and with this, training is terminated. Thus Serial date number difference dnd(k)
getting stuck in local minima is avoided. The model is Cosine component of the minute of the day Cm
then ready for its actual use in the operation mode for Sine component of the minute of the day Sm
forecasting of the TEC. Otherwise the training is not
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be the ones with one hidden layer. Six neurons are used
in the hidden layer of the modules.

4. Brief Information Concerning Mapping


and Bezier Surfaces
[18] Mapping covers a portion of land. As an example,
consider the European area, which is bounded by the
latitudes (35.5N, 47.5N) and longitudes (5.5E,
19.5E). This area is partitioned by using a grid structure.
Grid points or local control points are thus defined.
[19] In practice, the number of control points can be
increased by increasing the number of defining polygon
vertices. Local control provides the capability of includ-
Figure 1. Architecture of the neural network modules. ing possible variations around a local control point
(METU-NN model has 104 modules, each having 214 without interfering with other distant localities of the
inputs, six hidden neurons in one hidden layer, and one mapping area.
output. METU-NN has a total of 419 distinct inputs and [20] Bezier surfaces, which are used in such mapping
104 outputs.) for the first time, have some advantages [Rogers and
Adams, 1990]. The availability of the GPS data to be
and sine component of the minute of the day, used for TEC evaluation provides a larger number of
polygon vertices for Bezier surfaces. Thus better surface
Sm sin2pm=1440: 7 fit is achieved.
[21] TEC values are forecast by using the METU-NN
When 10 min in advance forecasting is required, h is set model. Mapping is performed over the area of interest
to 10 min, and when 1 hour in advance forecasting is by using a Bezier surface. The Bezier surface is advanta-
required, h is set to 60 min. geous since it can provide more control points to increase
[16] Date numbers start with 1 January of year 0 as the quality of fit as compared with other surface patches
date number 1. By calculating the serial date number such as bilinear, ruled, linear Coons, and Coons bicubic
difference, the start value is shifted to the first date of the surface patches. Coons bicubic surface needs the specifi-
data of interest. In this study, the first date of the data of cation of precise, nonintuitive mathematical information
interest is 1 November 2003, 0005 UT. such as position, tangent, and twist vectors as in the cubic
[17] Figure 1 shows the architecture of the neural spline curves [Rogers and Adams, 1990]. Therefore there
network modules. The modular structure of the METU- are difficulties limiting its use in practice. These difficul-
NN provides the development and operation modes to be ties are overcome by using Bezier surfaces.
fast and robust. In this work, the METU-NN model has [22] In this work, 104 grid locations corresponding to
104 modules of neural networks. The number of modules 104 defining polygon vertices are used to obtain suffi-
corresponds to the number of grids for the region of cient control in mapping. The TEC forecast value at any
interest. The inputs of the modules are the present TEC location on the Bezier surface can be calculated as
values (number 104) and the first differences (number follows:
104) for each grid; first, second, and relative differences
(number 3) for the grid of interest; the present date n X
X m

number difference (number 1); and the present trigono- TEC u; w Bi1;j1 :Jn;i u:Km;j w; 8
i0 j0
metric components (number 2) of minute of the day.
Thus, for each module, there are 214 inputs. When where
common inputs of the modules are not counted, the 0 1
overall number of inputs for the METU-NN model is n
419. Hidden neurons correspond to state-like variables of Jn;i u @ Aui 1  uni 9
the system of interest. During training, the state-like i
variables of all of the METU-NN modules are deter-
mined for each grid. The METU-NN model has 104 0 1
m
outputs corresponding to 104 modules. The output of B C j
each module is the forecast value of TEC for the grid of Km;j w B C mj
@ j Aw 1  w ; 10
interest. For the modules, among the various neural
network structures, the best configurations are found to

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Figure 2a. Observed (dots) and 10 min ahead forecast Figure 3a. Observed (dots) and 1 hour ahead forecast
(solid line) TEC during 16 29 November 2003 for the (solid line) TEC during 16 29 November 2003 for the
single grid point (13.5E, 41.5N). single grid point (13.5E, 41.5N).

where w is the normalized latitude variable in the


region of interest.
B matrix values correspond to the METU-NN
outputs for the grids;
n + 1 = 8 is the number of longitude grids for each
latitude; 5. Results
m + 1 = 13 is the number of latitude grids for each [23] The TEC-trained METU-NN model was used for
longitude; forecasting TEC values up to 1 hour in advance during
u is the normalized longitude variable in the 16 29 November 2003. The time period includes the
region of interest; major November 2003 space weather event. Then maps

Figure 2b. Observed (dots) and 10 min ahead forecast Figure 3b. Observed (dots) and 1 hour ahead forecast
(solid line) TEC during 19 21 November 2003 for the (solid line) TEC during 19 21 November 2003 for the
single grid point (13.5E, 41.5N). single grid point (13.5E, 41.5N).

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Figure 4. Observed and 1 hour ahead forecast TEC map examples during 20 November 2003.
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[25] Figure 5a presents the scatter diagram of the 10 min


in advance forecast and observed TEC data for whole of
the 104 grid locations during 16 29 November 2003. In
order to appreciate the performance of the METU-NN,
individual reference can be made to Figures 5b, 5c,
and 5d, which present the scatter diagrams of the forecast
and the observed TEC data at the grid locations (11.5E,
38.5N), (13.5E, 41.5N), and (15.5E, 44.5N), respec-
tively, during 16 29 November 2003.
[26] Figure 6a presents the scatter diagram of the 1 hour
in advance forecast and observed TEC data for whole of
the 104 grid locations during 16 29 November 2003.
Figures 6b, 6c, and 6d present the scatter diagrams of the
forecast and the observed TEC data at the grid locations
(11.5E, 38.5N), (13.5E, 41.5N), and (15.5E,
44.5N), respectively, during 16 29 November 2003.
Best fit lines of near to 45 slopes, almost passing
through the origins in Figures 5a 6d, indicate small
forecasting errors.
[27] In order to examine the performance of the
METU-NN during the geomagnetic storm on 20 No-
Figure 5a. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line vember 2003, reference can be made to Figures 7a, 7b,
(solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and 8a, and 8b. Figures 7a and 8a illustrate the scatter
observed TEC values for all grid points for the validation diagrams of the 10 min in advance and 1 hour in advance
time 16 29 November 2003. forecasts and observed TEC data for whole of the 104 grid
locations during 20 November 2003. Figures 7b and 8b
present the scatter diagrams of the forecast and the
of TEC are constructed by using the Bezier surface observed TEC data at the grid location (13.5E,
mapping technique. Observed TEC values are used only 41.5N) during 20 November 2003.
for the grid locations. METU-NN is trained with the
observed TEC data to give the outputs, the forecast TEC
values, for the grid locations. The TEC mapping is not
performed during training because the observed TEC
values for the whole region are not a priori except the
grid locations. After the forecast operation, TEC map-
ping is performed. Figure 2a illustrates the variations of
both the 10 min in advance forecast and observed TEC
values for the grid location (13.5E, 41.5N) during the
whole period of interest, 16 29 November 2003.
Figure 2b, covering the period 19 21 November 2003,
is a subset of Figure 2a. Similarly, Figure 3a illustrates
the variations of both the 1 hour in advance forecast and
observed TEC values for the grid location (13.5E,
41.5N) during 16 29 November 2003. Figure 3b,
covering the period 19 21 November 2003, is a subset
of Figure 3a. The diurnal minute-long variation of the
TEC values is shown in the vertical axis, and the
horizontal axis is the days of the November 2003 in
minute intervals. To a first approximation, the agreement
between the forecast and observed GPS TEC values are
in very good agreement on visual inspection.
[24] Figure 4 illustrates the variations of the forecast Figure 5b. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line
and observed TEC values for the 1 hour in advance TEC (solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and
maps for the big geomagnetic storms of 20 November observed TEC values for the single grid point (11.5E,
2003, at 0930, 1340, 1530, and 1720 UT, respectively. 38.5N) for the validation time 16 29 November 2003.
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Figure 5c. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line Figure 6a. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line
(solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and (solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and
observed TEC values for the single grid point (13.5E, observed TEC values for all grid points for the validation
41.5N) for the validation time 1629 November 2003. time 16 29 November 2003.

Figure 5d. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line Figure 6b. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line
(solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and (solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and
observed TEC values for the single grid point (15.5E, observed TEC values for the single grid point (11.5E,
44.5N) for the validation time 1629 November 2003. 38.5N) for the validation time 16 29 November 2003.

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Figure 6c. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line Figure 7a. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line
(solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and (solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and
observed TEC values for the single grid point (13.5E, observed TEC values for all grid points for the day 20
41.5N) for the validation time 1629 November 2003. November 2003.

Figure 7b. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line


Figure 6d. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line
(solid line) for the 10 min ahead forecast mapping and
(solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and
observed TEC values for the single grid point (13.5E,
observed TEC values for the single grid point (15.5E,
41.5N) for the day 20 November 2003.
44.5N) for the validation time 1629 November 2003.
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Figure 9. Absolute error map of observed and 10 min


Figure 8a. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line ahead forecast TEC between 16 November 2003, 1000
(solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and UT, and 30 November 2003, 0000 UT.
observed TEC values for all grid points for the day 20
November 2003.
the METU-NN system reaches the global error minimum
[28] Summarizing the results, the METU-NN model by reaching the correct operating point.
with Bezier surface TEC mapping learned the shape of the [29] The overall absolute TEC error map for 10 min in
inherent nonlinearities during the severe space weather advance forecasts is plotted in Figure 9. Similarly, the
conditions of the November 2003 period. In other words, TEC error map for 1 hour in advance forecasts is plotted
in Figure 10. It is interesting to note that forecasts inside
the region of interest exhibit a better match with the
observed data, leading to smaller error values in the inner
grids when compared with the corner grids. The reason is
that the presence of the neighbor grids increases the
learning performance of the model for forecasting. The
authors propose selecting a wider area in training than
the area in operation. This may be achieved by discard-
ing the outermost grids of the area of interest during
operation and performance analysis. In the current study
none of the grids are discarded, and the overall perfor-
mance of the model is presented for discussion.
[30] The quantified performance of the model can be
studied in terms of the values of errors presented in
Tables 3, 4, 5, and 6. Tables 3 and 4 illustrate the average
error values for 10 min in advance forecasts during 16
29 November 2003 and during 20 November 2003,
respectively. Tables 5 and 6 present the average error
values for 1 hour in advance forecasts during 16 29
November 2003 and during 20 November 2003, respec-
tively. The first three columns of the tables present the
error values for the grid locations: (11.5E, 38.5N),
Figure 8b. Scatter diagram (dots) with best fit line (13.5E, 41.5N), and (15.5E, 44.5N), respectively.
(solid line) for the 1 hour ahead forecast mapping and For the overall TEC forecast mapping, error values in
observed TEC values for the single grid point (13.5E, the fourth columns of Tables 3 6 are small. The average
41.5N) for the day 20 November 2003. absolute error, for example, in Table 5 for the 1 hour in

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Table 4. Error Table for 10 m in Advance Forecasts for the


Day 20 November 2003
11.5E, 13.5E, 15.5E, Overall
Location 38.5N 41.5N 44.5N TEC Map

Root-mean-square error, TECU 1.4744 1.2133 1.2297 1.9570


Absolute error, TECU 1.0426 0.8460 0.9074 1.3510
Normalized error 0.0911 0.0728 0.0902 0.1543
Cross-correlation coefficient 0.9958 0.9975 0.9967 0.9904

[32] Space weather conditions also affect earthbound


systems, such as pipelines and electric power networks.
By receiving alerts and warnings, pipeline managers can
provide efficient systems, decreasing the resultant corro-
sion rate on the pipes, and power companies can mini-
mize resultant power outages and damages.
[33] Mapping is required in telecommunication plan-
ning as it involves the whole land, such as Europe in this
case. In this paper, a data-driven, neural network model
forecasting the TEC values on the grids is offered, and
Figure 10. Absolute error map of observed and 1 hour then Bezier surfaces are used in obtaining the forecast
ahead forecast TEC between 16 November 2003, 1000 TEC maps over Europe, which is very important for
UT, and 30 November 2003, 0000 UT. telecommunication and navigation, especially during
disturbed ionospheric conditions.
advance forecast, is less than 2 TEC units (1 TECU = [34] Forecasts of an ionospheric process, the TEC
1016 el m2), which is important for practical applica- variation, using the neural network based METU-NN
tions. In practice, at the confidence interval of 96%, to model, were employed in order to forecast the TEC
reach a conclusion with a wrong estimate is less than 4% values up to 1 hour in advance. The model learned the
when the cross-correlation coefficients between the com- shape of the inherent nonlinearities, and the system
puted and observed TEC values as noted in Table 5. reached the correct operating point in the operation time
period of 16 29 November 2003. Forecasting errors are
small. This fact is the indication of the system reaching
6. Conclusions the correct operating point within training. In other
terminology, the system is prevented from reaching local
[31] Characteristics of near-Earth space play vital roles minima, and it is successful in reaching the global
in the ionospheric and transionospheric propagation of minimum of the error cost function. The correlation
radio waves. These parameters are subject to drastic coefficients are very close to unity, which means that
variations depending on the space weather conditions. the METU-NN model learned the shape of the inherent
Thus the reliable operations of radio communication as nonlinearities. Therefore the deviations from straight line
well as navigation systems and spacecraft control systems are small in the scatter diagrams. In other words, it is
largely depend on the reliable information concerning shown that properly constructed neural network based
the ionospheric parameters such as TEC. Forecasts of systems, trained and tested with properly organized data,
TEC values in advance are especially essential in high- are promising in modeling the complex nonlinear pro-
frequency and other types of telecommunication system cesses, such as the unpredictable variability of the iono-
planning. spheric TEC values. To the best knowledge of the

Table 3. Error Table for 10 m in Advance Forecasts for the Table 5. Error Table for 1 Hour in Advance Forecasts for the
Validation Time Period (16 29 November 2003) Validation Time Period 16 29 November 2003
11.5E, 13.5E, 15.5E, Overall 11.5E, 13.5E, 15.5E, Overall
Location 38.5N 41.5N 44.5N TEC Map Location 38.5N 41.5N 44.5N TEC Map

Root-mean-square error, TECU 0.8497 0.7499 0.7616 1.0147 Root-mean-square error, TECU 2.1556 2.0501 2.1444 2.2969
Absolute error, TECU 0.6050 0.5386 0.5582 0.7087 Absolute error, TECU 1.5785 1.4846 1.5168 1.6537
Normalized error 0.0602 0.0602 0.0676 0.0740 Normalized error 0.1429 0.1522 0.1630 0.1563
Cross-correlation coefficient 0.9957 0.9963 0.9959 0.9924 Cross-correlation coefficient 0.9775 0.9746 0.9696 0.9699

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RS4016 TULUNAY ET AL.: FORECAST TEC MAPS RS4016

Table 6. Error Table for 1 Hour in Advance Forecasts for the Rogers, D. F., and J. A. Adams (1990), Mathematical Elements
Day 20 November 2003 for Computer Graphics, 2nd ed., pp. 379 477, McGraw-
Hill, New York.
11.5E, 13.5E, 15.5E, Overall
Samardjiev, T., P. A. Bradley, L. R. Cander, and M. I. Dick
Location 38.5N 41.5N 44.5N TEC Map
(1993), Ionospheric mapping by computer contouring tech-
Root-mean-square error, TECU 4.0663 4.3912 4.3397 4.4966 niques, Electron. Lett., 29(20), 1794 1795.
Absolute error, TECU 2.8948 3.2888 3.1537 3.2613 Stamper, R., et al. (2004), Nowcasting, forecasting and warning
Normalized error 0.1945 0.2732 0.2684 0.2998 for ionospheric propagation: Tools and methods, Ann. Geo-
Cross-correlation coefficient 0.9764 0.9694 0.9645 0.9640
phys., 47(2 3), 957 983.
Tulunay, E. (1991), Introduction to neural networks and their
authors, this is the first time that a neural network based application to process control, in Neural Networks Advances
mapping technique has been presented for forecast of the and Applications, edited by E. Gelenbe, pp. 241 273, Else-
TEC values over Europe. vier, New York.
Tulunay, E., E. T. Senalp, L. R. Cander, Y. K. Tulunay, A. H.
[35] Acknowledgments. This work is partially supported Bilge, E. Mizrahi, S. S. Kouris, and N. Jakowski (2004),
by Middle East Technical University (METU) State Planning Development of algorithms and software for forecasting,
Organization, Turkey (DPT) project AFP-03-01-DPT nowcasting and variability of TEC, Ann. Geophys., 47(2
98K122690 and European Union project COST271. 3), 1201 1214.
Tulunay, Y., E. Tulunay, and E. T. Senalp (2001), An attempt
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