About Associate Professor Mike Wheatland

Research provides unique opportunities to learn new things, to deepen understanding, to identify connections between disparate fields, and to contribute to a field of knowledge.

Mike Wheatland is a theoretical/computational physicist whose research addresses key problems in the physics of solar flares, flare statistics (including applying Bayesian methods to flare prediction), the modelling of coronal magnetic fields, solar-terrestrial relations, and solar activity in general.

Mike’s most important contributions in research are in the computational modelling of solar coronal magnetic fields, and in the theory of solar flare statistics and its application to flare prediction.

His work is distinguished by a diversity of techniques, including large-scale (parallel) computation, advanced statistical methods, interdisciplinary knowledge, and high-level skills in data analysis and visualization.

Mike has developed new methods for modelling solar coronal magnetic fields, the source of energy for solar flares. His key contributions have been in devising efficient numerical techniques to solve the difficult nonlinear force-free equations used to described the coronal field. His current-field iteration method is at the forefront of existing modelling procedures, based on recent tests of competing methods using spacecraft observations.

In the field of solar flare statistics, Mike devised a Bayesian approach to flare prediction (the "event statistics method") which uses only the time history of flares already seen. This approach has been shown to out-perform forecasts issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Mike was a University medallist and and has won competitive Fellowships including a prestigious ARC QEII Fellowship. He is the author of more than 50 refereed publications in high-impact journals (including 35 as first author). He is internationally recognised, as evidenced by regular invitations to speak at international conferences, and a recent appointment as a Co-Investigator on a proposed U.S. space mission (a NASA Small Explorer Mission). Mike maintains a strong network of international collaborators, including researchers at Stanford University, Lockheed Martin Space and Astrophysics Laboratory, Northwest Research Associates in Boulder, and the University of Waikato.


Selected publications

1. Wheatland, M.S. & Melrose, D.B., Interpreting Yohkoh hard and soft X-ray flare observations, Solar Physics 158, 283-299 (1995)

2. Wheatland, M.S., Sturrock, P.A. & Acton, L.W., Coronal heating and the vertical temperature structure of the quiet corona, Astrophysical Journal 482, 510-518 (1997)

3. Wheatland, M.S., Sturrock, P.A. & McTiernan, J.M., The waiting-time distribution of solar flare hard X-ray bursts, Astrophysical Journal 509, 448-455 (1998) 

4. Wheatland, M.S., The origin of the solar flare waiting-time distribution, Astrophysical Journal 536, L109-L112 (2000)

5. Wheatland, M.S., Sturrock, P.A. & Roumeliotis, G., An optimization approach to reconstructing force-free fields, Astrophysical Journal 540, 1150-1155 (2000)

6. Wheatland, M.S. & Litvinenko, Y.E., Understanding solar flare waiting-time distributions, Solar Physics 211, 255-274 (2002)  

7. Wheatland, M.S., A Bayesian approach to solar flare prediction, Astrophysical Journal 609, 1134-1139 (2004)
8. Wheatland, M.S., A statistical solar flare forecast method, Space Weather 3 (7), S07003 doi:10.1029/2004SW000131 (2005)

9. Wheatland, M.S., A fast current-field iteration method for calculating nonlinear force-free fields, Solar Physics 238, 29-39 (2006)

10. Schrijver, C.J., DeRosa, M.L., Metcalf, T.R., Liu, Y., McTiernan, J., Regnier, S., Wheatland, M.S., & Wiegelmann, T., Nonlinear force-free modeling of coronal magnetic fields. I. A quantitative comparison of methods, Solar Physics 235, 161-190 (2006)