Wednesday, February 01, 2012

NASA Enhances Solar squall Forecasting

Space agency uses technology to generate up to 100 computerized forecasts to enhanced predict the path and effect of solar storms.

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 trail 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 maximum 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 accomplishment 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 trail or impact of hurricanes and other forms of severe weather.

Indeed, solar flare and storm activity has increased in latest months as the sun begins to wake up from years of relative inactivity, according to NASA. To organize for it, the agency has been working for some time to improve its forecasting of solar weather.

The sun emitted two considerable corona mass ejections (CMEs)--or billion-ton clouds of solar plasma launched by sun explosions--in the last six months, one on Aug 4 and one in mid January, the latter of which caused some airlines to divert flights. And earlier this week, the most powerful solar flare so far this year erupted from the similar region that caused last week's CME.

As the sun enters its peak of activity, CMEs become more frequent and can affect planets or spacecrafts in their path, as well as disrupt satellite-based communications or power grids on earth.