G1 – The British Meteorological Service will make “weather forecasts in space”

G1 – The British Meteorological Service will make “weather forecasts in space”
Solar storms can damage satellites and
Interfering with the electrical grid on the ground (Image: AP/BBC)

The Met Office, the UK's national weather service, will begin providing daily weather forecasts in space.

The service, which will operate 24 hours a day, aims to help companies and government departments identify in advance solar storms that could disrupt satellites, wireless communications and electricity networks.

The first forecast should occur around March or April 2014, during spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

The UK government's Department for Business will fund the project with £4.6 million over the next three years.

The Met Office aims to develop better methods for predicting weather in space in collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Solar storms
The “atmospheric conditions” in space are determined by energetic particles from the Sun.

Solar prominences (a type of flare that protrudes from the Sun's surface) and explosions in the solar atmosphere – known as coronal mass ejections – are powerful sources of potentially destructive solar storms.

They have the potential to damage sensitive satellite components and cause electrical overloads strong enough to disrupt power grids on Earth.

A major power outage in Quebec, Canada, in 1989 was attributed to a solar storm.

The Sun's activity peaks every 11 years, when solar emissions become more intense. The star is currently in one of these stages.

Mark Gibbs, head of space weather at the Met Office, said: “The science of space weather is relatively undeveloped, but knowledge of it is growing rapidly.”

The agency's project aims, he said, “to accelerate the development of better space climate models and forecasting systems that make the use of space weather data more efficient.”

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