dation, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, the Department of State, and the Department of Transportation. The NSWP operates under the auspices of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology. The SWPC, an operational arm of NOAA and the single point of responsibility in the government for space weather forecasting and prediction for the civil and commercial communities, operates on a very small and unpredictable annual budget (roughly US$5 million to $6 million) that limits capabilities. Nevertheless, the SWPC’s customer base has grown steadily, even during the years of solar minimum when solar disturbance activity is lower.

Thomas Bogdan showed the FY 2008 capability levels of the SWPC to provide long-term forecasts (1 to 3 days), short-term forecasts and warnings (less than 1 day), and now-casts and alerts. In only 1 of 14 areas was the capability considered satisfactory (see Figure 6.1). In three areas the prediction capability was shown as poor, including in the critical area of long-term forecasts (1 to 3 days) of ionospheric disturbance probabilities. The FY 2008 capabilities for long-term forecasts of M-flare and X-flare probabilities, solar energetic particle probabilities, geomagnetic storm probabilities, and solar-irradiance flux levels were shown as less than satisfactory, with much more work to be done. Bogdan also showed projected future capabilities for the SWPC if funding issues can be resolved (see Figure 6.2). If several new objectives are achieved, Bogdan stated that the SWPC in FY 2014 would have the capability of high-confidence 1- to 3-day forecasts of geomagnetic storms and ionospheric disturbances, forecasts that do not exist today.

Following Bogdan’s presentation on the NOAA SWPC, panelists discussed the benefits of receiving high-quality space weather forecasts, as well as the cost of receiving less than accurate or inaccurate (false-alarms) alerts, for operations such as airline polar flights, power company maintenance work and transfers of power between adjacent systems in the grid, and seismic surveys for offshore oil exploration, engineering, and production. Panelists, along with members of the audience, clearly indicated the economic and societal benefits of having, at a minimum, a reliable 24-hour alert of impending severe space weather and were concerned that such a capability does not exist today.

NOTE

  

1. The two STEREO (Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory) satellites were launched by NASA in 2006 into Earth’s orbit around the Sun to obtain stereo pictures of the Sun’s surface and to measure the magnetic fields and ion fluxes associated with solar explosions. The STEREO satellites trace the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), launched on December 2, 1995, is an international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind. The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), launched by NASA on August 25, 1997, orbits the L1 Lagrangian point where the gravitational pull of Earth and the Sun and centripetal force balance in such a way as to give an orbit of exactly 1 Earth year. For more information on ACE and SOHO, see note 2 in Chapter 5.



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