Space Weather and GPS-Reliant Industries

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Jennifer Meehan, Hampton University, Hampton, VA; and G. Fisher and W. J. Murtagh

Since the last solar maximum, our society has become extremely dependent on the Global Positioning System (GPS) often referred to as the “4th utility” behind electricity, water, and natural gas. Precision GPS is now required by numerous applications--railway control, highway traffic management, precision agriculture, emergency response, commercial aviation, and marine navigation. With such widespread and critical usage, GPS-reliant industries are now concerned about space weather impacts on the once thought “all weather proof” GPS system. Space weather can have a tremendous effect on GPS operations by causing signal delays, increasing errors in timing, position, and navigation, as well as total loss of signal ultimately resulting in total navigational failure. In this presentation we investigate the types of industries that are interested in space weather products and services for navigation uses. In doing so, we can now begin to understand the wide-ranging uses for GPS and the potential impacts of GPS signal errors. We examined over 600 customers who currently subscribe to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) navigation products, carefully analyzing each customer according to their sector and industry. We concluded with a wide ranging list of companies, as well as a discussion of why and how they use space weather information. This analysis highlights the need for understanding the impacts of space weather phenomena on GPS systems and the need for robust and efficient mitigation strategies to prevent the ripple effect GPS degradation can create.