Space Weather Forecasting Laboratory
Published August 14, 2012
Space Weather and Its Effects
"Space weather" refers to highly dynamic variations in the natural space environment. These changes are driven by the sun and occur on timescales of seconds to days.
Space weather affects military, civil, and commercial systems operating in or through space in several ways, including: radio interference and propagation effects that disrupt signal links or degrade precision; environment-induced satellite anomalies that interrupt operations or cause permanent damage; and large variations in the upper atmosphere's "drag" on satellites, causing increased uncertainties in tracking and collision avoidance. Space weather can also damage electrical power grids on the ground, and subject high-flying aircraft crews to increased radiation.
AFRL's Space Weather Forecasting Laboratory (SWFL) was created in 2007 to integrate research advances in several disciplines to provide new or improved end-user capability to provide new or improved end-user capability to specify and forecast:
· Satellite anomaly hazards (and aid their rapid resolution)
· Impacts of the ionosphere's state and solar emissions on radio wave propagation, interference, and "scintillation"
· Upper atmospheric changes that affect satellite drag.
To meet these capability goals, SWFL works in four main areas.
1) Systematically assess existing and candidate space environment models, tools, and data.
2) Develop new or improved specification and forecast capabilities, leveraging in-house research and collaborations with the broad space weather community.
3) Provide advanced capabilities to meet operational needs.
4) Facilitate communications between operational and research communities to clarify the intersection of requirements and potential solutions.
Current SWFL Projects
Specification & Forecast Capability
SPEAR (Space Environment Anomaly Resolution) provides operators with continuous probabilities of satellite anomalies caused by charging, energetic ion "single events", and radiation dose.
MeV Electron Forecast uses a variety of techniques from neural networks to physics based models to specify and forecast the environment that causes internal satellite charging.
WSA-CAT (Coronal Analysis Tool) fuses solar EUV and magnetogram data with solar wind modeling to provide forecasters with essential overview and context information and to distinguish ambiguous features to better predict critical space weather drivers.
SWIFT (SWFL-ISOON Flarecast Tool) provides automated flare detection and sophisticated analysis capabilities, integrating observations from multiple remote solar telescope sites for use by a central analyst.
Quantitative Model Assessments
Baseline validations of several models used operationally by AFWA, providing a quantitative basis to assess candidate model upgrades.
Solar wind model validations comparing multi-day forecasts with near-Earth measurements for a full solar cycle.
Validations and assessments of latest models to guide incorporation into operations.