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NASA Enhances its Solar Storm Forecasting

NASA is applying existing technology called “ensemble forecasting” that’s been used to predict hurricanes in its observations of solar weather to better predict the path and effect of solar storms. The use of the computational predictive technique couldn’t come as a better time, as the sun is entering its solar maximum, or period of greatest activity, which will spur an increase in space weather, according to the agency. Researchers at the Space Weather Laboratory of Goddard Space Flight Research Center have begun to implement ensemble forecasting–which allows them to produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts at once–with full implementation in three years’ time, according to NASA.

Support from NASA’s Space Technology Program Game Changing Program is allowing for the use of the technology, which meteorologists already use to track the potential path or impact of hurricanes and other forms of severe weather. Ensemble forecasting uses computer modeling to calculate multiple possible space weather conditions to simultaneously produce forecasts that researchers can analyze. From this analysis they can create alerts for solar storms that could affect astronauts or NASA spacecraft, according to the agency.

These alerts already are available, but not with the same speed or reliability as ensemble forecasting will provide, Michael Hesse, chief of Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory and director of the Center’s Heliophysics science division, said in a press statement.

“Ensemble forecasting will provide a distribution of arrival times, which will improve the reliability of forecasts,” he said. “This is important. Society is relying more so than ever on space. Communications, navigation, electrical-power generation, all are susceptible to space weather.”

…(InformationWeek)

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January 31, 2012 Posted by | Solar | , , , | Leave a comment