Upgrade to NOAA’s Space Weather Model Improves Predictions for Geomagnetic Storms

Thomas Leyk
3 Min Read

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is set to upgrade one of its space weather models, leading to improved predictions for the impact of geomagnetic storms on communication and navigation systems. The upgrade, scheduled for August 2, will provide increased lead time for predicting the effects of geomagnetic storms, as well as deliver new products for satellite operators, aviation, and communication sectors.

Geomagnetic storms, radiation storms, and ionospheric disturbances have the potential to disrupt commercial aviation, ground-based radio wave communication, and satellite operations. Particularly vulnerable are low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which can be affected by changes in orbital drag during active solar periods.

The upgrade will specifically enhance the capabilities of the coupled Whole Atmosphere Model and Ionosphere Plasmasphere Electrodynamics Model (WAM-IPE Model). By incorporating real-time solar wind data from NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft, the model will enable predictions to be made up to seven hours earlier.

The upgraded model will offer new products for satellite operators, such as decision-making support, maneuver planning, orbit prediction, and collision avoidance. Additionally, the aviation and communication sectors will benefit from new ionospheric products to identify potential interferences in communication and navigation.

The space weather products, including the new neutral-density product, will be available in near-real-time on the SWPC website. The neutral density products will also be shared through NOAA’s Open Data Dissemination Program, providing public access on a commercial cloud platform.

In the future, SWPC aims to further improve the WAM-IPE Model by incorporating data from satellites used in missions like COSMIC-2 and GOLD, as well as other commercial satellite providers. These enhancements will be part of ongoing efforts to advance prediction systems for the satellite industry.

SWPC will also host a testbed experiment in October, focusing on space weather impacts on satellite operations. The event aims to facilitate collaboration among satellite operators, service providers, researchers, forecasters, and space weather observation providers.

The upgrade to the WAM-IPE Model and the ongoing efforts to improve space weather prediction systems aim to fulfill the growing need for enhanced forecasting capabilities in the commercial spacecraft industry in low-Earth orbit. The advancements will not only benefit satellite operators but also contribute to space situational awareness.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. Visit their website for more information.

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