Reflections before the max: the evolution of space weather

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Joseph DiTommaso, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK; and G. Fisher

Handout (682.9 kB)

As the next solar maximum is set on our horizon, it is useful to examine and understand how the field of space weather has evolved up to this point. Starting from awareness of space environment effects on our technology with the Carrington Flare of 1859, a multitude of events and milestones has marked this unique discipline's growth. As our understanding of the Sun-Earth system developed and our technological prowess in observations and modeling advanced, the different facets of near-Earth space environment interactions merged together, until “space weather” was born. By tracking the scientific, technological, and policy advances one can better understand how these three areas influenced the evolution of the field of space weather.

In order to create a timeline of advances, a sample of the space weather community was surveyed across multiple agencies, interests, and expertise. Researchers in academia and government, operational forecasters, private sector scientists, and policy makers were asked to describe their views on the milestones of space weather, the current state of space weather, and the future direction of the field. Participants were asked to describe what they viewed as the major milestones in science, technology, and policy for space weather. They also were asked to describe what future breakthroughs in space weather are needed and what policy dimensions needed to be better addressed. There was also some discussion on where space weather fits into “Pasteur's Quadrant”—whether it falls under: pure basic research, goal oriented or use-inspired basic research, or pure applied research. The results have given a broad view of how the field evolved and how the community views itself, now and in the future.