This month sees the first year anniversary of the official opening of the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre.
Space Weather describes disturbances in the Earth's upper atmosphere and magnetic field which have a variety of impacts on mankind and our technology. The aim of the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) is to provide the critical information needed to help the UK prepare for and build resilience to space weather events.
It's certainly been a busy year for the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC)!
Almost as soon as it was opened back in October 2014, MOSWOC was relocated to sit within the heart of the Met Office operational office and now monitor the Sun's activity 24 hours a day 365 days a year on a series of high resolution screens.
A number of new models, including the Relativistic Electron Forecast Model (REFM) (forecasting the occurrence of high energy electrons important to satellite operations) and D Region Absorption Predictions (D-RAP - helping us to advise on the likelihood of degradation to HF communications occurring from space weather events) have been brought into operational use to enhance the services provided for our space weather advisors.
The Met Office has also successfully transitioned Enlil, the model it uses to warn of geomagnetic storms onto its new Cray supercomputer, where it is running over 30 minutes faster and is now routinely archiving all its data, forecasts, alerts and warnings to enable formal verification of forecast performance to be carried out in future.
Over the last year the number of customers receiving space weather services has grown by over 50%.
A customer survey earlier in the year confirmed that all were satisfied or very satisfied with the services, rating the Met Office performance as either excellent or very good for both its forecast and warnings.
Public interest in space weather has also grown over the last 12 months with the space weather forecast on the Met Office public web pages seeing a significant increase in viewings.
The Met Office has started work on two new scientific projects in collaboration with academic partners which will help enhance our operations. Flarecast is a EU Horizon 2020 study looking at the origins of solar storms and Solterra is a study aiming to map the requirements for complete Sun to Earth space weather forecast modelling system.
Fundamental to future investment in space weather science and operations is a clear understanding of the potential cost of space weather events to society and the benefits a forecasting service can provide to offset those costs. The Met Office received funding from the UK Space Agency this year to undertake such a socio-economic study with UK partners at the Imperial College, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, RAL Space, Airbus and international support from South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Space Weather Prediction Center ( SWPC).
Following the transfer of governance responsibilities from Cabinet Office to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), a new stakeholder services group representing government, industry and the public now oversees the ongoing and future development of the service. The coming year will also see us providing space weather services to the European Space Agency as a partner in the Heliospheric Expert Centre. A busy second year is certainly forecast as MOSWOC continues to go from strength to strength!
Last updated: 8 October 2015