The Met Office and Space Weather

European city lights from space

The Government added solar storms to the National Risk Register (NRR) of Civil Emergencies in 2011 and they have been classified as a serious threat to the UK over the last two years, ranked in the top four on the NRR

The Sun is in constant flux and the impact of this solar activity is more apparent as people become more reliant on technology. Solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and the solar wind affect our technology and systems such as satellites, GPS, power grids and radio communications.

Solar flares can cause high-frequency radio and GPS to perform erratically, extreme CMEs can put power grids at risk. Therefore, space weather forecasts are of crucial importance to the Armed Forces, electricity industry, satellite operators and the aviation industry.

A report from the Royal Academy of Engineering on extreme space weather and its impacts on engineered systems and infrastructure recommended that space weather forecasts should form part of the risk mitigation strategy.

For more information please see our guide to What is Space Weather

The Met Office's role in space weather

The Met Office has been working in collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 2011 to build knowledge and capability to forecast space weather in the UK, and has recently received £4.6million funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) for an operational Space Weather prediction service.

Current space weather services

The Met Office is already providing forecasts and warnings of the impacts of space weather on UK services and infrastructure into government, and continue to discuss requirements to agree the level of capability the UK requires. We expect to be providing services 24x7x365  and offer full operational back up to NOAA SWPCC by May next year.

Working at the heart of government

The Met Office is at the forefront of science, researching and demonstrating new techniques. The new Government funded space weather prediction capability at the Met Office will help Government and business to prepare and mitigate the impacts of a high impact space weather event and support the growth and resilience of the UK space industry.

The new Space Weather Prediction Centre

The Met Office Space Weather Prediction Centre will provide the critical information to help build the resilience of UK infrastructure and impacted industries in the face of SW events, thereby supporting continued economic growth.

The Met Office will shortly become a member of the International Space Environment Service (ISES - an international body for space weather) and will become a designated Regional Warning Centre.

Met Office working in partnership

We're working to develop space weather capability and share valuable knowledge and create the UK's space weather forecasting centre with a range of partners in the US. We have a formal collaboration agreement with the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to strengthen collaborative efforts to protect critical infrastructure from the impacts of space weather. As part of the agreement the Met Office is implementing the state of the art  'ENLIL' computer model that is used by NOAA to predict the arrival time of Coronal Mass Ejections. Our space weather forecasters liaise on a daily basis with NOAA forecasters to exchange views on the expected space weather conditions for the next few days. We also work with and receive solar imagery from NASA.

In the UK, we're working closely with a range of UK partners including  Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), British Geological Survey (BGS), Bath University, RAL Space, British Antarctic Survey and a number of other universities and research organisations to transfer their data, knowledge and models into the Met Office to support an operational forecasting capability.

Last updated: 20 December 2013

Forecasting space weather
The Met Office is working with partners in the US and the UK, sharing valuable knowledge to develop the UK's space weather forecasting capabilities.