Tag Archives: Solar Flares

Radio Waves: DRM Part of BBC Story, Antennas and Smith Charts, Shortwave “Hot Debate,” Carrington Event, and “Deep Freeze”

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


DRM Is Part of the BBC World Service Story (Radio World)

The iconic broadcaster has been supportive of the standard for over 20 years

The author is chairman of the DRM Consortium. Her commentaries appear regularly at radioworld.com.

Our old friend James Careless studiously ignores DRM once more in his well-researched, but to our minds incomplete article “BBC World Service Turns 90” in the March 30 issue.

As an ex-BBC senior manager, I would like to complete the story now that the hectic NAB Show is over.

Having lived through and experienced at close quarters the decision to reduce the BBC shortwave about 20 years ago, I can confirm that the BBC World Service decision to cut back on its shortwave footprint — especially in North America, where reliable, easy-to-receive daily broadcasts ceased — has generated much listener unhappiness over the years.

In hindsight, the decision was probably right, especially in view of the many rebroadcasting deals with public FM and medium-wave stations in the U.S. (and later other parts of the world like Africa and Europe) that would carry news and programs of interest to the wide public.

But BBC World Service in its long history never underestimated the great advantages of shortwave: wide coverage, excellent audio in some important and populous key BBC markets (like Nigeria) and the anonymity of shortwave, an essential attribute in countries with undemocratic regimes.

BBC World Service still enjoys today about 40 million listeners worldwide nowadays. [Continue reading…]

The Magic of Antennas (Nuts & Volts)

If you really want to know what makes any wireless application work, it is the antenna. Most people working with wireless — radio to those of you who prefer that term — tend to take antennas for granted. It is just something you have to add on to a wireless application at the last minute. Well, boy, do I have news for you. Without a good antenna, radio just doesn’t work too well. In this age of store/online-bought shortwave receivers, scanners, and amateur radio transceivers, your main job in getting your money’s worth out of these high-ticket purchases is to invest a little bit more and put up a really good antenna. In this article, I want to summarize some of the most common types and make you aware of what an antenna really is and how it works.

TRANSDUCER TO THE ETHER
In every wireless application, there is a transmitter and a receiver. They communicate via free space or what is often called the ether. At the transmitter, a radio signal is developed and then amplified to a specific power level. Then it is connected to an antenna. The antenna is the physical “thing” that converts the voltage from the transmitter into a radio signal. The radio signal is launched from the antenna toward the receiver.

A radio signal is the combination of a magnetic field and an electric field. Recall that a magnetic field is generated any time a current flows in a conductor. It is that invisible force field that can attract metal objects and cause compass needles to move. An electric field is another type of invisible force field that appears between conductors across which a voltage is applied. You have experienced an electric field if you have ever built up a charge by shuffling your feet across a carpet then touching something metal … zaaapp. A charged capacitor encloses an electric field between its plates.

Anyway, a radio wave is just a combination of the electric and magnetic fields at a right angle to one another. We call this an electromagnetic wave. This is what the antenna produces. It translates the voltage of the signal to be transmitted into these fields. The pair of fields are launched into space by the antenna, at which time they propagate at the speed of light through space (300,000,000 meters per second or about 186,000 miles per second). The two fields hang together and in effect, support and regenerate one another along the way. [Continue reading…]

Smith Chart Fundamentals (Nuts & Volts)

The Smith Chart is one of the most useful tools in radio communications, but it is often misunderstood. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the basics of the Smith Chart. After reading this, you will have a better understanding of impedance matching and VSWR — common parameters in a radio station.

THE INVENTOR
The Smith Chart was invented by Phillip Smith, who was born in Lexington, MA on April 29, 1905. Smith attended Tufts College and was an active amateur radio operator with the callsign 1ANB. In 1928, he joined Bell Labs, where he became involved in the design of antennas for commercial AM broadcasting. Although Smith did a great deal of work with antennas, his expertise and passion focused on transmission lines. He relished the problem of matching the transmission line to the antenna; a component he considered matched the line to space. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: RNZ & TVNZ Merging, Tech Keeping Ukrainians in Touch, Solar Storms Documentary, and Aspidistra

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


RNZ and TVNZ to merge (RadioInfo)

New Zealand’s Minister for Broadcasting and Media Kris Faafoi has announced the government’s decision to create a new public media entity by merging RNZ and TVNZ.

According to Faafoi, ensuring New Zealanders continue to have access to reliable, trusted, independent information and local content sits at the heart of the decision.

“The public media sector is extremely important to New Zealanders in providing them with high quality, independent, timely and relevant media content,” Faafoi said.

“But we know the media landscape is changing and the sector is having to adapt to increased competition, changing audience demands and ways of accessing media, falling revenue, and new and emerging digital platforms. We need public media which is responsive to these changes and can flourish.

“RNZ and TVNZ are each trying to adjust to the challenges, but our current public media system, and the legislation it’s based on, is focused on radio and television.

“New Zealanders are among some of the most adaptive audiences when it comes to accessing content in different ways; like their phones rather than television and radio, and from internet-based platforms. We must be sure our public media can adapt to those audience changes, as well as other challenges that media will face in the future.”

“The new public media entity will be built on the best of both RNZ and TVNZ, which will initially become subsidiaries of the new organisation. It will continue to provide what existing audiences value, such as RNZ Concert, as well as better reaching those groups who aren’t currently well served; such as our various ethnic communities and cultures,” Faafoi said[…]

Read more at: https://radioinfo.com.au/news/rnz-and-tvnz-to-merge/ © RadioInfo Australia

Technologies old and new keep Ukrainians in touch with the world (The Economist)

Battery radios and satellite internet both have jobs to do

In communist Eastern Europe a shortwave radio was a vital piece of equipment for anyone wanting to stay ahead of the censors. Stations such as the bbc World Service, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America broadcast news, entertainment and rock-and-roll across the Iron Curtain.

After the cold war ended, shortwave radios gave way to television and the internet, and the broadcasts were wound down. But on March 3rd, in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the bbc announced their return. The World Service has begun nightly news broadcasts into Ukraine and parts of Russia (see map). Continue reading

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Topic of Solar Flares and Electricity Grid Reliance in the House of Commons

(Image: NASA)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Shannon, who shares a link to a transcript on the UK Parliament website and notes that “it’s not often” the topic of CMEs comes up in the House of Commons. (We have discussed them here, of course.)

Here’s the transcript taken from the UK Parliament website:

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con)

It is a pleasure to rise for my first Adjournment debate in many years—once a decade perhaps.

I am a little concerned that people might think that I am trying to be the new Lembit Öpik of this Parliament, in that he was famously obsessed with asteroid impacts that never occurred. Equally, people might think I have been spending far too much time during lockdown watching boxsets, such as “Cobra” on Sky Atlantic, which I was wholly unaware of until I watched an episode this weekend. I assure the House that it had no impact at all on me picking this particular topic.

People might wonder what on earth I am on about. What is a solar flare? A solar flare, also known as space weather or coronal mass ejection, is an event that has the potential to knock out our electricity grid by causing voltage instability, power transmission network instabilities and transformer burnouts. A modest one in Quebec in 1989 did just that for a few hours to the Hydro Québec grid.

A bigger solar flare is likely to be around the corner, even if we do not know when. The last so-called biggie was in 1859, called the Carrington event. That was a very different era, with fewer consequences. Events with limited impacts have occurred throughout the past 100 years, but as we become more reliant on technology, they have an impact on navigation systems, aviation and satellites, increasingly. As with Los Angeles atop the San Andreas fault, another episode is both expected and unavoidable.

It is important to prepare, and with the knowledge that we will have very little warning that such a solar flare is occurring before we suffer the consequences. Government say that we are the best prepared in the world but, without being unkind to them at the moment, those are the precise words used of our pandemic preparations. It is therefore worth exploring in greater detail whether we are truly prepared for any solar flare, let alone the right sort of solar flare. The concern in the UK is that, while there was some pandemic preparation, it was for the wrong sort of virus.

The Civil Contingencies Unit might be able to maintain the national strategic stockpile of body bags. The NHS might well have tried to foresee every strain of virus, and ensure that vaccines were available, but the collision of plans with reality is always the point at which flaws are revealed. I do not mean that we should be looking at websites for survivalists and preppers, or stocking up on tinned food—we have had enough panic buying this year. However, we should consider those risks that the scientific community believes to be worth mitigating.

It is fair to ask how far the Government have progressed since the 2015 space weather preparedness strategy. As good as it is to know that solar flares are on someone’s radar somewhere in Whitehall, some of its relaxed conclusions may need re-testing. For example, the document rather blithely states:

“Some of this resilience is not the result of planning for this risk but good fortune.”

It gives me slight pause for thought that we are relying on good fortune to see us through future space weather. ?
To me, the golden thread stretches from the Met Office alerting the Government to the imminence of a solar flare, to the National Grid then having a limited period of time—if any—to implement mitigating measures.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

The hon. Gentleman’s coastal region has the potential to suffer the same problems from solar flares as my coastal region, and I am pleased that he has brought this forward for the House’s consideration. Is he aware that coastal and more rural areas like both of ours would be worst hit? We need to ensure that we are not left languishing, waiting for replacement transformers. Does he further agree that planning should include specifics for coastal areas in particular?

Paul Maynard

I was fascinated to see how the hon. Gentleman would respond to the challenge of this topic in an Adjournment debate and he has surpassed my expectations. I urge him to speak to EirGrid, which is the grid that covers Ireland. I am sure it will be interested in explaining to him what actions it is taking. But there are issues we have to consider. The 2015 space weather preparedness strategy indicates that the nearest radiation monitor to the UK is in Belgium. Can the Minister confirm whether that remains the case, and whether our decision to pull out of all EU agencies in any way jeopardises our access? Either way, what steps have been taken to develop sovereign capability in that regard? When was the last Met Office review of warning systems for space weather, and what role would he anticipate for the UK Space Agency?

The British Geological Survey has three operational magnetic observatories. Can the Minister confirm that that remains the case, and explain how resilient they are in and of themselves to space weather? The 2015 review described a number of priorities for future investment. Can the Minister update the House on what publicly funded research has now commenced on space weather, as per the strategy? Can he update me further on what progress has been made in working with international partners?

The Government’s 2015 report stated

“the GB power grid network is highly meshed and has a great deal of built in redundancy. This potentially makes it less susceptible to space weather effects than power grids in some other countries. Over recent years a more resilient design for new transformers has been used to provide further mitigation.”

That is all very positive, you might think, but a 2013 report by the Royal Academy of Engineering painted a slightly different picture:

“Since the last peak of the solar cycle, the Great Britain transmission system has developed to become more meshed and more heavily loaded. It now has a greater dependence on reactive compensation equipment such as static variable compensators and mechanically switched capacitors for ensuring robust voltage control. Thus there is increased probability of severe geomagnetic storms affecting transmission equipment critical to robust operation of the system.”

That is a little less positive.

Right now, National Grid seems to be focusing on hanging on to its role as the electricity system operator, as well as balancing expanding offshore wind farms and building interconnectors to them. Does it have the bandwidth that it needs to keep checking whether its network of transformers can withstand an event of space weather? Back in 2015, it calculated that some ?13 transformers were at risk, and the likes of the US are stockpiling back-up transformers. National Grid is supposed to have spare transformers, but it is not clear how many. If we were to need more, do we even have the industrial capacity to build them, notwithstanding the eight to 12-week lead-in time, and the need to transport them by road to their destination? What more can Government do to assist increasingly commercially oriented companies such as National Grid in this regard, and what progress has been made on developing transportable recovery transformers, as was suggested as far back as 2013? What progress does the Minister believe National Grid is making on installing such mitigating inventions as series capacitors and neutral current blocking devices? Interconnectors are a good thing in themselves. They are also direct current equipment, and as such are not affected. However, during a solar flare, they may be affected, because the convertors to alternating current at either end will come under risk. As we develop ever more interconnectors, what steps is the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy taking to ensure that those new interconnectors are made as resilient as they can be? Crucially, can I ask when the last national risk assessment update was conducted by the Government?

Some dangers never come to pass—Y2K passed without incident—but just occasionally, I believe it is worth posing the question “What if?” and not just trusting that it will all be fine, because that is the answer we want to hear and the alternative is perhaps far too unpalatable. Covid-19 teaches us many lessons about preparing for worst-case scenarios, and making sure that we assess all possible outcomes must surely be one of the key lessons that we learn. I look forward to learning what the Minister has to say.

The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Kwasi Kwarteng)

I was very interested to hear the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). He mentioned solar flares, and the fact that in the 19th century, people were very conscious of those solar flares. I would like to remind him, as I am sure he knows, that a whole economic theory about the business cycle relating to solar activity was presented in the 19th century, and there are British economists who are very interested in this subject. As a country generally, we have been very interested in solar activity, so I thank him for raising a subject that is very important. It is not as abstruse or obscure as people might think: the question we are considering is a very serious one.

Those severe space weather events are rare, but when they do occur, they can have a big impact on national infrastructure, as my hon. Friend has suggested. As such, it is—I am sure he will be pleased to hear this—a risk that we take very seriously. Severe space weather was first recognised as a risk in our 2011 national security risk assessment, and the 2017 national risk register of civil emergencies provided the most recent assessment of the likelihood and potential impacts of that risk. This assessment is kept under constant review: it is not something that we simply put away in a drawer once it was written up.

Of course, predicting when severe space weather events can happen is crucial to minimising their impact. I am pleased to reassure my hon. Friend that the UK is a ?world leader in this area, as I suggested in my earlier remarks. The Met Office’s Space Weather Operations Centre is one of only three 24/7 forecasting facilities in the entire world. Its systems are kept under constant review, and we are constantly looking to improve how we can maximise our capacity in this area. In recognition of the importance of these forecasts and the ability to conduct forecasting, in 2019 the Prime Minister announced a £20 million boost for research in this area, which represented a near quadrupling of the amount that we were spending. This funding means that the Met Office will be able to improve both the accuracy of forecasts and its warnings.

I have to say that when my hon. Friend mentioned the three operational magnetic observatories, I was very interested. I did actually do some preparation on that topic, and I am very pleased to say that all three magnetic observatories are operational. They are situated in Shetland, on the Scottish borders and in north Devon, and they greatly enhance our capabilities in this area. They are also extremely resilient to space weather.

My hon. Friend mentioned National Grid. The whole issue of National Grid ESO and National Grid’s relationship to it is something that again is under constant review. It is the subject of some debate in the industry. However that question is answered, I can reassure him that we have a resilient energy system. I was struck by the fact that he mentioned a report from 2013. He and I have been in the House of Commons since 2010, I think, and I hope he does not take it amiss if I say that 2013—certainly in the context of energy—is a very long time ago. We have had a huge increase in the deployment of offshore wind and we have more interconnector capacity. I suggest to him that the capacity and resilience of the system is considerably greater than was the case in 2013. Having said all that, I accept that the risk is serious, and he rightly draws it to my attention. I will take the matter up directly with National Grid and the ESO.

As far as National Grid and the ESO are concerned, they feel that they have instigated a few mitigating measures, including increasing the number of spare transformers so that damaged equipment can be replaced quickly. We have been assured—I can revert to my hon. Friend on this—that there are sufficient spare parts to deal with the reasonable worst-case scenario, and there are plans to deploy this spare capacity. Also, critically, we have to introduce—and they are introducing—a new design of transformers, which will be far more resistant to the effects of space weather that he described.

With respect to interconnectors, my hon. Friend will know that it is a direct current but the transformers transform it to alternating current, and that is an area again where we think we can get added protection from the risks he outlined. We will publish a new space weather strategy next year, which will set out a five-year road map—a five-year vision—for how we intend to boost resilience and build on existing UK strength and capacity in this area. It will also provide what he has asked for: an update on the progress that we have achieved since the 2015 strategy was published.

The long history of close working among the energy industry, thinkers and leaders of thought in the sector and the Government means that we have a good understanding of the risk posed by solar flares to ?the electricity network. We think we have put in place proportionate measures that will mitigate those risks, and I am firmly of the view that the system is highly resilient, but, once again, I am extremely open to ideas from my hon. Friend and from Members across the House—from all quarters—as to how we can improve our resilience and our ability to forecast potential danger in this area.?
I once again thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. Far from being a flippant or trivial subject for an Adjournment debate, it is my pleasure to respond on a very serious problem. I hope we can assure him that the problem is well scoped and that we have decent mitigations in place.

Question put and agreed to.

–House adjourned.–

Thanks for the tip, David. It’s my impression that many power grids across the planet are being upgraded to better handle potential destructive EMPs. Of course, this is an investment into upgrades we hope we never need, thus local/national governments don’t always take the threat seriously.

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NASA’s SDO produces a 10 year time-lapse video of the sun

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ahmet (KD2AQU), who shares the following item from NASA:

As of June 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory – SDO – has now been watching the Sun non-stop for over a full decade. From its orbit in space around Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data over the past 10 years. This information has enabled countless new discoveries about the workings of our closest star and how it influences the solar system.

With a triad of instruments, SDO captures an image of the Sun every 0.75 seconds. The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument alone captures images every 12 seconds at 10 different wavelengths of light. This 10-year time lapse showcases photos taken at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers, which is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer – the corona. Compiling one photo every hour, the movie condenses a decade of the Sun into 61 minutes. The video shows the rise and fall in activity that occurs as part of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and notable events, like transiting planets and eruptions. The custom music, titled “Solar Observer,” was composed by musician Lars Leonhard.

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HF Radio blackouts in wake of solar flares

(Image Source: NASA)

(Source: ARRL via Mike Terry)

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a strong (G3) geomagnetic storm watch for September 7 through September 9. The SWPC said the watch for September 7 remains in effect due to the arrival of a coronal mass ejection (CME) and the effects of a CME on September 4.

“Additionally, a G3 watch is now in effect for the 8 and 9 September UTC days in anticipation of the arrival of another CME associated with the X9.3 flare (R3 — strong radio blackout) on 6 September at 1202 UTC (0802 ET),” the SWPC said early on September 7. “Analysis indicates likely CME arrival late on 8 September into early 9 September.” The September 6 flare is being called the strongest in more than a decade.

Its effect on HF radio propagation has adversely affected the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), currently operating on 20 and 40 meters as Hurricane Irma sweeps through the Caribbean.
As of September 7 at 1400 UTC, the solar flux index stood at 127, the sunspot number at 27, the A index at 11, and the K index at 4. All HF conditions are being deemed as no better than fair. The possibility of extended auroral displays could work to the benefit of VHF and UHF operators who aim their antennas north to take advantage of “buzz” mode. SWPC posts a 30-minute forecast of visible aurora.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the ARRL.

Also, check out Tamitha Skov’s forecast on YouTube:

Last night, I tested a couple of HF radios and all but the strongest shortwave broadcasters (WRMI, RHC) were wiped out. Even the strong stations sounded like weak DX. This is truly an HF blackout.

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Space Weather Woman: Check out Dr. Tamitha Skov’s forecasts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who recently shared one of Tamitha Skov’s space weather forecast videos.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched Dr. Skov’s weekly video forecasts to better understand the implications of incoming CMEs, solar winds, sun spots (or lack thereof) and geomagnetic storms. While her videos include a lot of technical details, they’re also much easier to understand than the typical propagation forecast. Plus, her videos they’re chock-full of solar imagery and animations.

This weekend, for example, we’re going to experience some disruptions to HF propagation. Yesterday, solar wind speed soared to 704–and at time of publishing this post it’s 721 km/sec (thanks for noting, Mike!).

Dr. Skov explains it all in her latest space weather video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view and subscribe to Tamitha Skov’s YouTube channel, and click here to check out her website.

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Planning for a Carrington Event super solar storm

Electricity-Pylon-Tower

My buddy, Bill Forstchen, is author of NY Times best seller, One Second After (and many other books). One day, we met for lunch and I admitted to him that I’m less worried about an EMP attack (the catalyst for writing his novel) than I am a powerful solar storm, like the Carrington Event. Bill, you see, is a huge advocate for having our power grid and emergency services prepared/”hardened” for either of these two events.

Last week, I was impressed to see that the White House released a multi-agency plan and strategy to prepare for a severe space weather event.

WashingtonPostLogoThe Washington Post published a summary:

At some point in our lifetimes, the sun could unleash a dangerous surge of magnetically-charged plasma that could severely damage or destroy critically important electric power systems, satellites, spacecraft and telecommunications.

The White House, realizing that an extreme solar storm could jeopardize the nation’s vitality and security, released a strategy and multi-agency plan on Thursday to prepare for and coordinate responses to the space weather threat.

[…]In 2012, NASA said the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado told NASA two years after it happened.

[…]The most severe documented solar storm to impact Earth, known as the Carrington Event, occurred in September 1859, well before today’s power grid and network of satellites existed.

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA noted.

A National Academy of Sciences study in 2008 said a similar event happening today could produce a devastating economic impact exceeding $2 trillion, 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina.

A key component of the White House plan is to establish benchmarks for space weather events.  “They provide a point of reference from which to improve the understanding of space weather effects, develop more effective mitigation procedures, enhance response and recovery planning and understand risk,” the plan says.

Some recent studies have shown that there is historical evidence of the sun producing “superflares,” or flares 1,000 times larger than what has been observed in modern times.

[…]The 2008 National Academy of Sciences report said power outages after an extreme solar storm could last months or longer, since transformers take a long time to replace. A report from North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) from 2012, on behalf of the industry, was not as dire, noting that geomagnetic storms are more likely to cause blackouts and short-term power loss rather than such sustained damage.

This is just an excerpt–I encourage you to read the full article on the Washington Post website.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) also published the following fact sheet, outlining a space weather action plan:

FACT SHEET: New Actions to Enhance National Space-Weather Preparedness

Space-weather events are naturally occurring phenomena in the space environment that have the potential to disrupt technologies and systems in space and on Earth. These phenomena can affect satellite and airline operations, communications networks, navigation systems, the electric power grid, and other technologies and infrastructures critical to the daily functioning, economic vitality, and security of our Nation. That’s why today, the Administration is releasing a National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan and announcing new commitments from the Federal and non-Federal sectors to enhance national preparedness for space-weather events.

National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan

Over the last several years, both industry and the Federal government have played an active role in maintaining and advancing the Nation’s ability to forecast and mitigate the various impacts of space weather. These actions include taking steps to replace aging satellite assets essential to monitoring and forecasting space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, developing regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers.

Yet gaps remain in our capacity to understand, model, predict, respond to, and recover from space-weather events. The newly released National Space Weather Strategy (Strategy) and Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) were developed by an interagency group of experts, with input from stakeholders outside of the Federal government, to clearly articulate how the Federal government will work to fill these gaps by coordinating, integrating, and expanding existing policy efforts; engaging a broad range of sectors; and collaborating with international counterparts. The Strategy identifies goals and establishes the guiding principles that will guide these efforts in both the near and long term, while the Action Plan identifies specific activities, outcomes, and timelines that the Federal government will pursue accordingly. The Action Plan broadly aligns with investments proposed in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 and will be reevaluated and updated within 3 years of the date of publication or as needed.

Taken together, the Strategy and Action Plan will facilitate the integration of spaceweather considerations into Federal planning and decision making to achieve preparedness levels consistent with national policies, and enhance the resilience of critical technologies infrastructures to the potentially debilitating effects of space weather on the people, economy, and security of the United States.

Supporting Commitments to Enhance Space-Weather Preparedness

Today, Federal agencies and non-Federal entities are announcing new actions to support the Strategy and Action Plan and further enhance national space-weather preparedness.

Releasing New Space Environment Data. The U.S. Air Force (USAF), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will provide Space Environment Data from the current GPS constellation and other U.S. Government satellites. This data could be used to validate space-weather forecast models, potentially enhancing space-weather prediction capabilities. As a first step, USAF and NOAA will make data from January 2014 – a month characterized by a high level of solar activity – freely available on data.gov, providing an opportunity for users to explore the scientific value of the data. Within three months of this release, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will chair an interagency group to evaluate the utility of the released data and to determine if the open data archive should be expanded to include additional historical and near real-time data.

Launching a Space Weather Data Initiative. In accordance with President Obama’s Executive Order on making open and machine-readable the new default for government information, as well as on demonstrated successes of unleashing innovation and technology for disaster response and recovery, the Administration will launch a Space Weather Data Initiative. The goals of this Initiative are to (1) make easily accessible and freely available on data.gov an unprecedented amount of space weatherrelated data; (2) engage with the private sector and the open-data community to leverage the open data and promote the development of data-driven tools, applications, and technology to enhance space-weather preparedness; and (3) expand U.S. Government capacity for using open data, innovation, and technology to support effective and efficient response to and recovery from space-weather events.

Increasing International Collaboration. To strengthen international coordination and cooperation on space-weather preparedness, the Department of State will organize workshops and meetings in Washington, DC with embassy staff from a multitude of nations. These workshops and meetings will provide an opportunity for other countries to learn more about the purpose and goals of the National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan; ensure that policymakers in and leaders of partner nations recognize space weather as a global challenge; and facilitate the sustained, coordinated participation of partner nations in relevant international space-weather initiatives.

Including Space Weather in Transportation “Fundamentals” Reports. Space weather can affect communication and navigation systems that are critical for safe and efficient transportation systems. By incorporating space-weather considerations into two reports that provide comprehensive and up-to-date guidance on the major elements of a state’s all-hazards transportation security and emergency management program – Security 101: A Physical Security Primer for Transportation, and A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies –officials will have the information they need to incorporate space-weather considerations into transportation-security guidelines and emergency-response plans. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) – a nonprofit association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – will ensure that space weather is included in the next edition of these two AASHTO Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management “fundamentals” reports.

Incorporating Space Weather into Emergency-Management Training and Activities. Space-weather events can, directly or indirectly, cause or exacerbate major disasters or emergencies, and can interfere with or impair disaster response, relief, and recovery efforts. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) – a professional association of and for emergency management directors, dedicated to enhancing public safety by improving the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all emergencies and disasters – will increase training and education related to space weather. Specifically, NEMA will:

  • Partner with the International Association of Emergency Managers to host a
    space-weather focused webinar for members of both groups, reaching up to 1200
    state and local emergency managers, and others working in the emergencymanagement
    field;
  • Incorporate space weather into training and education opportunities for newly
    appointed state emergency management directors; and
  • Incorporate space weather into the NEMA Homeland Security Committee’s
    policy focus on infrastructure resilience.

Raising Awareness of Space Weather in the Aviation Sector. As part of their commitment to promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry, Airlines for America – America’s largest airline trade association – will work with member carriers and their affiliates to educate the community on space weather and its effects on aviation, which include degradation or loss of satellite navigation signals and radio transmissions for communication.

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