Space Weather: Forecasting & Impacts on Critical Infrastructure

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1 Space Weather: Forecasting & Impacts on Critical Infrastructure Dr. Genene Fisher Senior Advisor for Space Weather National Weather Service AMS Washington Forum 12 April 2012

2 Outline Solar Activity Update Space Weather Forecasting Recent Activity & Impacts

3 Solar Cycle Update Solar Minimum in December 2008 Solar Cycle 24 Underway, Solar Maximum forecast May Storm 1921 Storm

4 Sunspot Number Subscription service began Number of Customers SES Satellite Inmarsat FEMA Boeing FAA Alaska DOT Chrysler Motorola Washington St. Dept of Transportation John Deere & Caterpillar, Inc. Major Airlines UAL, AA, CO, Delta Sample Recent Registrants British Petroleum America United Launch Alliance Multiple Electric Utility Companies White House Office of Communications

5 Three Agents of Space Weather Electromagnetic Emission 8 minutes to Earth Radio Blackout (R) Scale Charged Particle Radiation Tens of minutes to several hours to Earth Solar Radiation Storm (S) Scale Magnetized Plasma hours to Earth Geomagnetic Storm (G) Scale 93 Million Miles from Sun to Earth 5

6 NOAA Space Weather Scales Radio Blackouts Radiation Storms Geomagnetic Storms

7 Solar Flares (Radio Blackouts R Scale) Solar Flare - A violent explosion in the Sun's atmosphere; energy equivalent of a hundred million hydrogen bombs. : Arrival: 8 min from Sun to Earth Impacts Duration: minutes to 3 hrs Daylight-side impact Image from NASA SOHO Satellite GPS Network Communications Ground and Space-based Radar

8 Solar Radiation Storms (S Scale) Arrival: 30 minutes to several hours Duration: hours to days Impacts Satellite operations (range from loss of data to loss of satellite) Aviation (communications and exposure concerns) High latitude HF comm outage Manned Spaceflight

9 Geomagnetic Storms (G Scale) Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) create geomagnetic storms Arrival: ~20 90 hours Duration: hours to a day Creates Ionospheric storms Impacts Satellite operations Aircraft operations Power grid operations GPS Pipelines

10 Sequence of Events for Geomagnetic Storm Products Analysis and Prediction (Geomagnetic Storm Watch Products Issued) Watches: The conditions are favorable for occurrence (1-4 days) ACE Observation (Geomagnetic Storm Warning Issued) Warnings: Disturbances that are imminent, expected in the near future with high probability (Minutes to a few hours) Event Onset/ Ground-Based Observation (Geomagnetic Storm Alert Issued) Alerts: Observed conditions meeting or exceeding thresholds

11 March 2012: 1st R3/S3/G3 Space Weather Storm of the Solar Cycle Round of solar activity reached the Strong, 3-level on all NOAA SWx Scales Sunspot region 1429 transited solar disk from March 2-15 Most significant period: A Solar Flare (R3) erupted March 7 Solar Radiation Storm commenced shortly after on March 7, peaked at S3 (strong) level on March 8 Earth directed CME affected Earth March 8-10 with G3 (strong) level on March 9 Region 1429 Courtesy of SDO (NASA). Courtesy of SDO (NASA)

12 Geomagnetic Storm Forecast WSA/Enlil model indicated Mar 8, 10UTC arrival at Earth A G3 Watch was issued Mar 7 at 17:42UTC 17 hours before the storm onset Stronger storming was expected on Mar 8, but solar wind not suitable for stronger storming until Mar 9 Geomagnetic Storm Forecast: The arrival time is estimated to be Mar 8 at 06:00-10:00UTC. Periods reaching the G3 (Strong) Level Likely Actual: Arrival: Mar 8, 11:05UTC Intensity: G3 storm at peak

13 IMPACTS Aviation Some polar flights were re-routed to ensure continuous communications Lower-latitude trans-oceanic flights experienced short-lived outages of HF used for position reports FAA WAAS reported the detection of minor issues for GPS users in Alaska Power Industry Some grid operators reported the detection of low-level induced currents in their systems, well-below the magnitude capable of causing equipment damage or disruption of service Satellite Industry (reports are alleged only) Satellite anomaly affected LightSquared s Skyterra 1 creating temporary disruption in service to emergency manager communications in the US 13

14 SWPC s Goal: Provide the right information in the right format... at the right time to the right people to make the right decisions

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