Space weather prediction model improves NOAA's forecast skill

Oct 20, 2011

NOAA is now using a sophisticated forecast model that substantially improves predictions of space weather impacts on Earth. Better forecasts offer additional protection for people and the technology-based infrastructure we use daily.

Explosions in the sun's – tracked and forecast by NOAA scientists – can cause geomagnetic and solar radiation storms at Earth that can impede the operation of electrical power grids, interfere with the normal function of Global Positioning Systems and temporarily hamper radio and satellite telecommunications. Grid and satellite operators and airlines can take protective measures when stormy conditions are forecast.

"This advanced model has strengthened forecasters' understanding of what happens in the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun following a solar disturbance," said Tom Bogdan, director of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo. "It will help power grid and communications technology managers know what to expect so they can protect infrastructure and the public."

Magnetic storms can occur on Earth 1𔃂 days after a coronal mass ejection – a burst of charged particles and magnetic field that streams out from the at more than one million miles an hour. Before development of this model, forecasters could predict timing of such impacts within a 30-hour window, on average. The new model allows forecasters to narrow that window to 12 hours.

That improvement gives airline operators more reliable information about when to reroute flights to avoid communications blackouts from storms. Satellite operators can avoid changing orbit or orientation when space weather threatens. Oil drilling, mining and other operations that rely on global positioning systems – which can be made unreliable by space weather – can avoid conditions that might put operators at risk. Power companies can work to prevent problems.

"The shorter prediction timeframe will enable the electric industry to better prepare for potential issues," said Gerry Cauley, president and chief executive officer of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. "The continued improvement of forecasting through innovation and modernization of the existing satellite is vital to support the reliability of North America's bulk electric system."

The new model, WSA-Enlil, combines two advanced models, the Wang-Sheeley-Arge (WSA) and Enlil (named for the Sumerian god of wind). These linked numerical forecast models simulate physical conditions and phenomena from the base of the sun's corona out into interplanetary space, to and beyond. Space weather scientists "inject" solar events into the WSA-Enlil model to understand how the storm system is likely to unfold.

Explore further: How bad can solar storms get?

Related Stories

New Video 'GOES' Exploring the Sun's Weather

May 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The series of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites known as GOES provide daily satellite images of weather here on Earth, but they also provide scientists with solar data and ...

Solar flares: What does it take to be X-class?

Aug 10, 2011

Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). ...

Recommended for you

How bad can solar storms get?

May 22, 2015

Our sun regularly pelts the Earth with all kinds of radiation and charged particles. How bad can these solar storms get?

Mars rover's ChemCam instrument gets sharper vision

May 22, 2015

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover's "ChemCam" instrument just got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument.

GOES-R satellite begins environmental testing

May 21, 2015

The GOES-R satellite, slated to launch in 2016, is ready for environmental testing. Environmental testing simulates the harsh conditions of launch and the space environment once the satellite is in orbit. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) Oct 30, 2011
Plasma Regulated Electromagnetic Phenomena in Magnetic environment- See Projections in Cosmology Vedas Interlinks Books.
Plasma vision of the Universe-1993, Plasma Regulated Electromagnetic Universe-1995 and reports sent to ESA Cluster and Solar orbiter groups help you to take science to next dimensional knowledge-http://newciv.org...hp/_v162

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.