News

New Space Weather Forecasting Model Going Operational

January 28, 2011

Through an unprecedented research-operations partnership, the Boston University-based Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center are transitioning the first large-scale, physics-based space weather prediction model from research into operations. National Weather Service (NWS) scientists affiliated with CISM reported the news today at the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) meeting in Seattle, Wash. CISM is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center.

The model will provide forecasters with a one- to four-day advance warning of high-speed streams of solar plasma and Earth-directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These streams from the Sun can severely disrupt or damage space- and ground-based communications systems and pose hazards to satellite operations.

"It's very exciting to pioneer a path from research to operations in space weather," says Jeffrey Hughes, CISM's director and professor of astronomy at Boston University. "The science is having a real impact on the practical problem of predicting when 'solar storms' will affect us here on Earth."

The development comes in response to the growing critical need to protect the global communications infrastructure and other sensitive technologies from severe space weather disruptions. This transition culminates several years of close cooperation between CISM and its partner organizations to integrate, improve, and systematically validate the model for operational forecast use.

"This milestone is important scientific progress and underscores the effectiveness of NSF's Science and Technology Centers in applying research results to real-world problems," says Robert Robinson of NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds CISM.

CISM team members worked on-site with scientists and forecasters at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center to improve the models and visualizations. Having key team members co-located during this critical phase of development enabled an ongoing discussion between forecasters and scientists that enhanced the development of the model, and ultimately led to NOAA's decision to bring it into operations as the first large-scale physics-based space weather model.

Headquartered at Boston University, CISM is an NSF Science and Technology Center (STC) made up of 11 member institutions. Established in 2002, CISM researchers address the emerging system-science of Sun-to-Earth space weather. CISM's research and education activities center on developing and validating coupled physics-based numerical simulation models that describe the space environment from the Sun to the Earth. These models have important applications in understanding the complex space environment, space weather specifications and forecasts, and advanced tools for teaching.

CISM partners include the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA's Community Coordinated Modeling Center, and the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. The lead model developers for this work are CISM team members Dusan Odstrcil of George Mason University and Nick Arge of the Air Force Research Lab.

 

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