We consider the flare prediction problem that distinguishes flare-imminent active regions that produce an M- or X-class flare in the future 24 hours, from quiet active regions that do not produce any flare within $\pm 24$ hours. Using line-of-sight magnetograms and parameters of active regions in two data products covering Solar Cycle 23 and 24, we train and evaluate two deep learning algorithms -- CNN and LSTM -- and their stacking ensembles. The decisions of CNN are explained using visual attribution methods. We have the following three main findings. (1) LSTM trained on data from two solar cycles achieves significantly higher True Skill Scores (TSS) than that trained on data from a single solar cycle with a confidence level of at least 0.95. (2) On data from Solar Cycle 23, a stacking ensemble that combines predictions from LSTM and CNN using the TSS criterion achieves significantly higher TSS than the "select-best" strategy with a confidence level of at least 0.95. (3) A visual attribution method called Integrated Gradients is able to attribute the CNN's predictions of flares to the emerging magnetic flux in the active region. It also reveals a limitation of CNN as a flare prediction method using line-of-sight magnetograms: it treats the polarity artifact of line-of-sight magnetograms as positive evidence of flares.
We present a Python tool to generate a standard dataset from solar images that allows for user-defined selection criteria and a range of pre-processing steps. Our Python tool works with all image products from both the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SoHO) and Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) missions. We discuss a dataset produced from the SoHO mission's multi-spectral images which is free of missing or corrupt data as well as planetary transits in coronagraph images, and is temporally synced making it ready for input to a machine learning system. Machine-learning-ready images are a valuable resource for the community because they can be used, for example, for forecasting space weather parameters. We illustrate the use of this data with a 3-5 day-ahead forecast of the north-south component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) observed at Lagrange point one (L1). For this use case, we apply a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) to a subset of the full SoHO dataset and compare with baseline results from a Gaussian Naive Bayes classifier.
In this paper we present a curated dataset from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission in a format suitable for machine learning research. Beginning from level 1 scientific products we have processed various instrumental corrections, downsampled to manageable spatial and temporal resolutions, and synchronized observations spatially and temporally. We illustrate the use of this dataset with two example applications: forecasting future EVE irradiance from present EVE irradiance and translating HMI observations into AIA observations. For each application we provide metrics and baselines for future model comparison. We anticipate this curated dataset will facilitate machine learning research in heliophysics and the physical sciences generally, increasing the scientific return of the SDO mission. This work is a direct result of the 2018 NASA Frontier Development Laboratory Program. Please see the appendix for access to the dataset.
* Accepted to The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series; 11 pages, 8
The precise physical process that triggers solar flares is not currently understood. Here we attempt to capture the signature of this mechanism in solar image data of various wavelengths and use these signatures to predict flaring activity. We do this by developing an algorithm that  automatically generates features in 5.5 TB of image data taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory of the solar photosphere, chromosphere, transition region, and corona during the time period between May 2010 and May 2014,  combines these features with other features based on flaring history and a physical understanding of putative flaring processes, and  classifies these features to predict whether a solar active region will flare within a time period of $T$ hours, where $T$ = 2 and 24. We find that when optimizing for the True Skill Score (TSS), photospheric vector magnetic field data combined with flaring history yields the best performance, and when optimizing for the area under the precision-recall curve, all the data are helpful. Our model performance yields a TSS of $0.84 \pm 0.03$ and $0.81 \pm 0.03$ in the $T$ = 2 and 24 hour cases, respectively, and a value of $0.13 \pm 0.07$ and $0.43 \pm 0.08$ for the area under the precision-recall curve in the $T$ = 2 and 24 hour cases, respectively. These relatively high scores are similar to, but not greater than, other attempts to predict solar flares. Given the similar values of algorithm performance across various types of models reported in the literature, we conclude that we can expect a certain baseline predictive capacity using these data. This is the first attempt to predict solar flares using photospheric vector magnetic field data as well as multiple wavelengths of image data from the chromosphere, transition region, and corona.
* submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal