UK Met Office To Launch 24-Hour Space Weather Forecast Service
December 26, 2013

UK Met Office To Launch 24-Hour Space Weather Forecast Service

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The UK’s national weather service has announced plans to begin offering daily space weather forecasts starting next spring.

According to BBC News, the Met Office will receive more than $7.5 million (US) in funding from the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) over the next three years in order to provide a 24-hour daily service.

The goal is to aid government agencies and private-sector firms by providing early warning when solar storms could disrupt satellites, power grids or radio communications, the British news agency added.

The Met Office will partner with the British Geological Survey, Bath University and RAL Space on the project, and will also be collaborating with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop better ways of predicting severe solar flares, solar wind and space storms, the agency said.

“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,” explained UK Universities and Science Minister David Willetts. “Space is one of the Eight Great Technologies of the future and I'm pleased that this worthwhile project has received the funding it's due. These forecasts will ensure that businesses can plan ahead, keeping us at the forefront of the global race.”

While space weather forecasts are set to start next spring, Katie Collins of Wired UK said that the service will not be 100 percent operational until autumn 2014. Met Office officials told her that the system would be cost-effective because it would be built largely using “pre-existing infrastructure,” including the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter. She added that there are hopes that the forecasting service could ultimately be commercialized.

“Space weather is a relatively immature science but understanding is growing rapidly," said Mark Gibbs, Head of Space Weather at the Met Office. “The Met Office is working with NOAA Space Weather Prediction Centre in the US in a collaboration which aims to enable both organizations to accelerate the development of improved space weather models and prediction systems to make more effective use of space weather data.”

“Accurately predicting and preparing for the impacts from space weather requires a commitment similar to terrestrial weather forecasting and preparedness,” added Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of the NOAA's National Weather Service. “Our countries' collaborative efforts will help to promote preparedness and resilience to protect critical infrastructure against the growing and evolving global impacts from space weather.”