The Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) recently welcomed experts from the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) ahead of its upcoming launch of a 24/7 space weather forecasting service.
MOSWOC has been a producing 24/7 forecasts since 2014, helping inform key industries on the latest forecasts for solar activity, including sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. SANSA has been operating during office hours since 2010 and is due to launch a 24/7 space weather service later in 2022, boosting its capability to produce space weather forecasts for the benefit of Africa.
As part of the move to a 24/7 service, SANSA is adding to its roster of space weather forecasters, moving from just two people in the Centre to six forecasters, with the team visiting the Met Office as part of their training.
Dr Mpho Tshisaphungo, Head of Space Weather at SANSA, said: “We have gained a lot of new insights into space weather forecasting 24/7. Our forecasters have learned a lot on the space weather desk working alongside MOSWOC forecasters. Newer members of our team already received training at SANSA on the background physics of space weather but have a need for international exposure and learning more about what the Met Office does with forecasting, coronal mass ejection analysis and sunspot classifications, including techniques and models for forecasting.
“We have also learned a lot on some of the other services that the Met Office has in space weather and we’ve talked a lot about roster management for 24/7 as we’ll obviously be doing that soon.”
The move to a 24/7 operation for SANSA has resulted in a move to a new purpose-built Centre at Hermanus near Cape Town, offering space weather forecasting services to the aviation sector to start with.
Dr Tshisaphungo continued: “The reason we’re going 24/7 is because we have been designated as a regional centre to provide space weather products and services to the aviation sector by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). They need the space weather information on a 24/7 basis which is one of the main drivers behind us expanding our capability.”
SANSA will produce space weather products covering the whole of Africa and join just a handful of space weather centres in the world who operate on a 24/7 basis.
Met Office Senior Account Manager of Space Weather Krista Hammond said: “It has been great having SANSA come and work with us for a few weeks. As well as our forecasters working alongside each other, we have discussed in depth our current operations, recent developments, and future plans. This has been a great exchange of knowledge with us learning more about the areas of space weather forecasting and research that they are involved with.
“The relationship between MOSWOC and SANSA goes back to when we first started operationally forecasting space weather here in the UK so it’s a really important one for us. There aren’t that many space weather centres in the world with a 24/7 forecasting capability so we’re delighted to be able to share our experience in this area with SANSA to support them in their journey.
“International collaboration is incredibly important in space weather forecasting. Space weather is a global phenomenon and doesn’t recognise geographical borders, which is why it’s crucial to work across those borders and share knowledge and learn from each other when we can.”