Innovative space weather monitoring projects receive UKRI funding

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced funding for five projects focused on improving the UK’s capability to predict and mitigate the hazards of space weather. The projects will incorporate new research to further develop the space weather models used by the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre.

The projects are part of the first phase of the Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) programme, a £20 million, four-year programme led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The aim is to improve the UK’s capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction.

There will be an emphasis on space radiation, which can affect aircraft systems, changes in the upper atmosphere, affecting communications, satellite orbits and surges in the current of power grids and other ground-level systems. These are significant risks to the infrastructures we rely on in daily life and are recorded in the UK’s National Risk Register.

The five projects are together worth close to £9 million and funded by NERC, which is part of UKRI. Improving the accuracy of predicting when and where space weather events take place should allow the Met Office to issue warnings and advice sooner, allowing operators more time to take necessary action, such as manoeuvring satellites and isolating parts of the power network to ensure the least amount of disruption possible.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said; “Satellites are fundamental to our everyday lives, underpinning technologies we constantly rely on from mobile phones to GPS. Any disruptions caused by space weather can therefore have a profound impact on businesses and individuals.

“These fantastic projects that we are backing today will enhance the UK’s ability to forecast space weather, enabling our excellent national weather service to defend the technologies we all depend on.”

Met Office Space Weather Operation Centre

Simon Machin, Space Weather Programme Manager at the Met Office, said; “We are very excited by the prospect of working with the crème of UK science and academia on the SWIMMR projects. SWIMMR will deliver a step change in UK space weather monitoring, warning and prediction capability by supporting pull-through of cutting-edge science into operational services. This will enable the Met Office to provide a greater range of more accurate services driven by the needs of users and underpins the UK’s strategic aims to grow and exploit opportunities in the space domain.

“SWIMMR communicates a clear vision of cementing the UK as a world leader in space weather and our thanks go out to all partners and stakeholders for supporting this programme of work.”

Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, said; “SWIMMR is great example of NERC working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council and other partners to support world-leading environmental research, and the funding will maximise the impact and uptake of an essential forecasting service relied upon by Government and businesses. These exciting projects will further our understanding and confirm the UK’s reputation as an international leader in this field.”

The SWIMMR funding programme forms part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by the UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation.

The funded projects are:

SWIMMR Theme Project Title Lead organisation Partners 
N1 Satellite risk forecasts Satellite Radiation Risk Forecasts (Sat-Risk) NERC British Antarctic Survey

 

University of Sheffield

University College London

University of Reading

Imperial College London

N2 Aviation risk forecasts SWIMMR Aviation Risk Modelling (SWARM) University of Surrey NERC British Geological Survey

University College London

University of Central Lancashire

N3 GNSS and HF aviation forecasts Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: Ionosphere (SWIMMR-I) University of Birmingham

 

University of Bath

University of Leicester

Lancaster University

University of Leeds

N4 Ground effects forecasts SWIMMR Activities in Ground Effects (SAGE) NERC British Geological Survey

 

NERC British Antarctic Survey

University College London

Imperial College London

N5 Satellite drag forecasts Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: Thermosphere (SWIMMR-T) University of Birmingham

 

University of Southampton

NERC British Antarctic Survey

Lancaster University

 

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