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UK Space Weather Monitoring to get Major Upgrade in New Research Programme

28 Jun 2020, 18:59 UTC
UK Space Weather Monitoring to get Major Upgrade in New Research Programme
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Space weather effects. (Credit: ESA/Science Office)

BIRMINGHAM, UK (University of Birmingham PR) — The UK’s ability to predict solar superstorms and other severe space weather events is to get a significant upgrade with the launch of two major research projects led by the University of Birmingham.

The research is part of a £20M [$24.7 million] programme called SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk), funded by UK Research and Innovation and designed to deliver improved monitoring capability to the UK’s Met Office. As part of this programme the University of Birmingham will lead a £3.7M [$4.6 million] effort in better understanding the Earth’s upper atmosphere (ionosphere and thermosphere).

Turbulent space weather, largely caused by radiation, energetic particles and plasma emitted by the Sun, can cause huge disruption on Earth. Whilst the Earth’s magnetosphere, a powerful magnetic field that surrounds the Earth in the upper atmosphere, protects us from day-to-day space weather, extreme events can overcome this planetary defence with potentially severe consequences. Risks include widespread and long lasting power cuts, disrupted satellite, GPS and radio communication technologies, and air passenger and astronaut safety.

Extreme space weather has been included in the Government’s National Risk Register – an overview of ...

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