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UK to Invest in Space Weather Forecasting Technology

By Caleb Henry | December 30, 2013
      CME Solar Weather

      A Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, as captured by NASA’s SDO Telescope. Photo: NASA

      [Via Satellite 12-30-13] The U.K.’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is investing approximately $7.6 million in a space weather forecasting system to protect technology from severe solar activity.

      Strong solar flares, space storms and solar wind can disrupt satellites, GPS, power grids and radio communications. BIS expects to have reliable space weather forecasts running 24/7 starting in spring 2014. The forecasts will provide an early warning for operators of technologies that may be adversely affected by solar behavior.

      “The sun is in constant flux, and the possibly damaging impact of this solar activity is growing as people become more reliant on satellite technology,” said David Willetts, universities and science minister.

      The roughly $7.6 million investment, spread over the next three years, will allow the Met Office to build on its partnership with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service, sharing knowledge and expertise in space weather forecasting.

      “This investment will enable the Met Office to complete the space weather forecasting capability that it has been developing over the past two years and begin delivering forecasts, warnings and alerts to key sectors to minimize the impact to the technology-based services we all rely on,” said Mark Gibbs, head of space weather at the Met Office.

      The Met Office is developing the forecasts in collaboration with a range of U.K. partners such as the British Geological Survey, Bath University and RAL Space along with other international partners.