Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Aaron Ridley
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Aaron Ridley


Concentration: Space Weather

Office: 1416 Space Research Building
Phone: (734) 764-5727
Fax: (734) 647-3083
[ Link to website ]


Ph.D., M.S.,Atmospheric & Space Sciences, University of Michigan

B.S., Physics, Eastern Michigan University


Magnetosphere - Ionosphere Coupling
Thermospheric and Ionosphere Dynamics
Modeling of the near-Earth space environment
Data assimilation
Geospace data analysis

Specializations and Research Interests

• Modeling of the near-Earth space environment. I have worked with and have developed many different models of the upper atmosphere and magnetosphere. Towards the beginning of my career, I worked with the Assimilative Model of Ionospheric Electrodynamics, which was developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). I ended up rewriting the data processing codes and, eventually, the entire code. During my post doc, I worked on porting the TIEGCM, another NCAR model, to a Linux environment. After I moved to the University of Michigan, I worked with the BATSRUS model of the magnetosphere, and coupled this to the TIEGCM. I further created an ionospheric electrodynamics code for BATSRUS and created code to allow BATSRUS to be run off of realistic, ever-changing, boundary conditions. Finally, I have developed a Global Ionosphere Thermosphere Model (GITM), which is significantly more flexible than existing upper atmosphere models, such as the TIEGCM. This code has been ported over to work on Mars and Titan as well as Earth. The majority of the research grants that I currently have are to utilize GITM for studying different aspects of the near-Earth space environment.

• Ground-based instrumentation. At this time, I have active programs for ground-based magnetometers in Antarctica and Fabry-Perot Interferometers (FPIs) in North America. The Space Physics Reseach Laboratory has developed an autonomous, low-powered, data system that can be deployed in extreme conditions. We have used this platform to deploy six ground-based magnetometers to Antarctica. In addition, I have been working with collaborators outside of UM to install FPIs in a wide area across the continent. We have recently won a grant to start a network of these FPI systems.

• Small satellites. Working with Professor James Cutler, I have won a grant to launch a CubeSat called CADRE, which will measure the state of the upper atmosphere. In addition, I am the Mission Scientist for the CYGNSS, a NASA mission that is composed of eight small satellites that will measure the surface wind speed above the oceans. I am also working on many proposals to try to increase the number of CubeSats that UM is leading, two of which have been submitted and are awaiting reviews. Both of these focus on supplying the European QB50 mission four CubeSats. The largest proposal that I am working on is for a constellation of 40-48 CubeSats that would measure the dynamics of the upper atmosphere.

Honors, Awards and Accomplishments


  • Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Research, Most Cited Paper 2005-2010.
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, 2006.
  • University of Michigans College of Engineering Outstanding Research Scientist Award, 2004.
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research High Altitude Observatorys Newkirk Fellowship, 1996.


  • Principal investigator/Co-Investigator, several research grants, NSF, NASA, NOAA and Department of Defense
  • Author or co-author, 150+ publications in refereed journals
  • Speaker, 200+ scientific lectures/seminars

Professional Service

Major committee assignments in the Department, College, and/or University

1. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Qualification Exam Co-Chair(2012- 2013)

2. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Executive Committee (2011-2013)

3. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Nominations Committee (2012)

4. College of Engineering Commission on Undergraduate Engineering Education (2008-2009)

5. Organization of student labs for the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences

6. Assisted in the creation of a College of Engineering Multidisciplinary Design Minor (2007)

7. College of Engineering Research Strategy Committee (2007)

8. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Information Technology Committee

9. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Core Curriculum Committee (2006-

10. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Awards Committee (2004-2005)

11. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Graduate Committee (2004-2005)

12. Assisted in the restructuring of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences
graduate program (2003)

13. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Executive Committee (2002-2004)

Administrative duties at U of M

1. Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Undergraduate Advisor (2006-)

2. Faculty advisor for the College of Engineering Honors Program (2012-2015)

Service to government or professional organizations, and service on review board/study panels

1. Secretary for the American Geophysical Union Space Physics and Aeronomy, Magnetospheric Physics section (2010-2012)

2. National Science Foundation Review Board for the High Altitude Observatory (2011)

3. Member of the Steering Group for the European CubeSat mission QB50 (2011)

4. Working group co-chair for the NCAR Community Climate Model (2008-2010)

5. Organization of the ionosphere-thermosphere community to support space-based and ground- based research (2007-2010)

6. NOAA Data Archive Access Requirements Working Group (2006-2007)

7. NASA Sun Solar System Connections Science Data and Computing Working Group (2003-)

8. Geospace Environment Modeling Steering Committee (2002-2006)

9. Co-leader of the international organization ICESTAR (2004)

10. “Geophysics the Future” Working Group for International Union of Geodicy and Geophysics (2002-2003)

11. I have served on many (more than 10) proposal review panels for NASA and NSF, but I have never kept track of when they have occurred.


Professor Ridley’s blog:

Updated: 2015-08-31