12th Conference on Aviation Range and Aerospace Meteorology


Adding space weather to the mix of aviation weather services

Joseph Kunches, NOAA/Space Environment Center, Boulder, CO

With the opening of the northern polar routes in the late 1990's, space weather became an important part of the product and service suite desired by commercial airlines. The convergence of the earth's magnetic field at the poles allows solar energetic particles access to the neutral atmosphere, initiating chain reactions that affect the communication, radiation, and navigation conditions experienced by aircraft at conventional altitudes. Severe space weather can totally eliminate the ability to communicate via HF radio, the sole option when aircraft are too far from the equator to see geosynchronous satellites. Irregularities in the ionosphere can cause the temporary unavailability of GPS satellites for navigation, and the biological impacts on crew and passengers of increased radiation that occurs during space weather storms is an area still under further investigation.

As in terrestrial weather, there is a clear chain tracing required products and services, beginning with the users, threading then through the space weather operations community, and back into research and development. Much of the physical processes related to these space weather storms is not well understood, and an effort to unravel the mechanisms that ultimately impact the near-earth space environment must be better characterized. Airlines have expressed their requirements for better space weather forecasts that their dispatchers can use, to ultimately minimize the disruptiveness caused by unforeseen events.

This talk will give an overview of the current status of polar operations, a description of important space weather conditions that impact polar operations, and a survey of research topics to be explored.


Session 6, Current Issues and Topics in Aviation Weather
Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 1:45 PM-5:30 PM, A301

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