International collaboration ‘vital’ for space weather scientists

The borderless potential impacts of space weather means international collaboration is ‘vital’, according to Kate Brand, National Manager of the Australian Space Weather Forecasting Centre.

Kate’s team has been on a tour of space weather forecasting centres in the Northern Hemisphere and spent three days with the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC), sharing knowledge and collaborating on space weather services.

“We see the Met Office as a global standard for space weather forecasting centres,” said Kate.

“We wanted to develop our relationship with the centre here and share the way we do things and also find out how the Met Office operates and work out areas we can collaborate and build on each other’s strengths.”

Image of the Sun

Similarly to the Met Office, the Australian space weather forecasters work under the umbrella of their national meteorological service and provide a 24/7 space weather forecasting service, keeping an eye on the sun for solar flares, solar radiation storms, and coronal mass ejections which can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth.

While coronal mass ejections are responsible for the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, powerful geomagnetic storms also have the potential to impact communications systems and, in exceptional circumstances, ground-based infrastructure. Forecasting for the events helps key industries take steps to mitigate the worst impacts.

It’s because of those potentially wide-reaching impacts that Kate says visits like the ones they’ve been undertaking are vital for space weather scientists.

Kate said: “It’s vital to link up with others on this. The space weather community is relatively small and there are many problems to solve. I don’t think any centre could do everything on their own so it’s important to work together globally.”

Met Office Senior Account Manager of Space Weather Krista Hammond said: “It has been great having the Australian Space Weather Forecasting Centre come to visit us at the Met Office.

“We’ve been talking through the different challenges we face in terms of forecasting for different industries, how to best communicate these messages, and how we can potentially work more closely together in the future.”

With recent news of the long-awaited Vigil mission officially getting the green light, Kate concluded that it’s a good time to see more developments in the field.

“Vigil is going to be a critical mission for future space weather forecasting capabilities going forward so we’re excited that it’s all going ahead,” said Kate.

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