Sitting nearly 93 million miles from Earth, the Sun is the focal point of our solar system with each planet and their moons orbiting around it. Even at this great distance, the Sun's spectacular energy can pose significant risks in our world. With so much hinging on what's happening on and around the Sun, it is critical for scientists to continuously monitor solar activity. From solar flares to solar storms, that could interfere with Earth's electromagnetic field, providing accurate timely warnings of potentially harmful space weather and its impacts on Earth is more important than ever before.
That's where the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite mission, better known as DSCOVR, comes in. When it launches in early 2015, the DSCOVR satellite will continue monitoring the constant stream of charged particles from the Sun, also called Solar Winds. These observations are the backbone of NOAA space weather alerts and forecasts. Located approximately one million miles away, DSCOVR will orbit the Sun in a fixed position relative to Earth. Occasionally the Sun will have large eruption of magnetic field energetic particles, and if that comes towards the Earth and collides with the Earth's magnetic field in the magnetosphere, that's.
When you can get disturbances that we call solar or geomagnetic storms. Now, these geomagnetic storms can be very damaging to critical infrastructure on Earth such as power grids, aviation communication systems, satellites in orbit. Having satellite in orbit that can provide us with advance warning if solar activity occurs that could create issues for our system is actually the first line of defense if you will, for us to be able to take the appropriate action to protect our system from any impacts that could happen. Experts estimate the most extreme solar storms could cause one to two trillion dollars in damages.
And require a decade to recover. Having some advance warning is critical to us for a solar storm or hurricane. The advance warning we get from NOAA for hurricanes and other major storms, the National Weather Service, I kind of liken that to the same sort of thing, the essential warning we need from our solar storm activity. So it's pretty critical because you can't reliably predict the storms from Earthbased devices, you need the satellite out there. So having that extra hour warning, I'll say ahead of time, allows us to begin.
To put procedures in place to protect our systems, so whatever outages may occur we can more quickly restore customers. DSCOVR will join two NASA missions the Advanced Composition Explorer, or ACE, and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory known as SOHO, and will also host NASA funded secondary sensors for Earth and space observations. NOAA Will manage DSCOVR and use its Space Weather Prediction Center to distribute critical space weather data to users within the United States and around the world. DSCOVR data will drive our latest forecasting models that we are developing now. This will allow forecasters to provide.
NOAAs Space Weather Update July 13, 2012
I'm Joe Kunches, I'm with NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. Space weather got really interesting yesterday. On Thursday, a strong solar flare errupted from the middle of the solar disk right around the middle of the day our time yesterday. That was interesting because the flare effects impacted highfrequency radio communications on the day side of the Earth, probably for an hour or two after the the maximum of the flare. The forecast at this point is for a geomagnetic disturbance to begin on Saturday about 7 a.m. local time here in Boulder.
We're not anticipating that this particular space weather event will have significant impacts on Earth and on systems we depend on. Minor to maybe some periods of moderate geomagnetic storm activity are expected. Systems that are affected by geomagnetic activity like power grids and satellite operations and things that if that use GPS global positioning systems for precise surveying. We don't think any of those systems are going to be adversely affected by this one. The process of making the forecast for the strength of say a magnetic storm liked we're expecting tomorrow.
Involves a number of things. It involves taking an analysis of the eruption back at the sun, that starts the whole thing. How energetic was the eruption, how did it register in terms of its radio output, which is a proxy for how what's going on through the corona. Where on the sun did it occur, because that's very critical in terms of the trajectory of a coronal mass ejection that might come by the Earth, but then forget about the sun and move out into the coronosphere to the inner heliosphere.
What's the condition of the solar wind, are there structures between the sun and the Earth that are going to affect either the the velocity or the direction of this of this coronal mass ejection And then step ahead and forget about the solar wind, at the Earth, what's the condition of the Earth's magnetic field Is it in a state where it can take in some additional energy and not be terribly disturbed, or isn't already somewhat disturbed and therefore will it be more likely to go into a storm phase.
With another little jolt to it A very common question is will the auroras be visible from where I live Well, it depends on where you live for and and if you live near the U.S.Canada border perhaps on Saturday night or maybe even into Sunday night if the effects linger you might see some enhanced aurora just because we expect the storm to be of a severity that would cause and drive the auroral that for south. If you live south of there, probably not. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center is the Nation's official source of alerts.
Rapid, Affordable Energy Transformation Possible
ALEXANDER MACDONALDgtgt Many people have looked at how can we use wind and solar energy and get less carbon. But there's a problem. It's basically the wind doesn't blow all the time and it doesn't blow everywhere. So our study basically said if we looked at a large area could you get inexpensive and reliable electric power And we were able to show that we can. CHRIS CLACKgtgt The bottom line of this study that we did is the model predicts that we can get to 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to 1990 with without a dramatic increase in cost of electricity.
ALEXANDER MACDONALDgtgt I think what we were really looking at is we really felt that because of the large scale of weather, we could show that we can really decrease our carbon emissions without changing the cost and that's exactly what our study came up with you can have power that is about the same cost us today retail. CHRIS CLACK So every hour by hour wind and solar combined together will produce a vast majority of the power is needed and the rest is backed up by fossil fuels in our optimization.
ALEXANDER MACDONALDgtgt So in our study we really had to have the hour by hour amount of sun available because we're really saying, gee, if there's wind available, we'll use that, if there's sun available, if it's available in part of the US and not another part. So the study really has to have all detailed weather data every hour for an entire year to really determine what the wind and solar resources are the. CHRIS CLACKgtgt The wind happens to be over large scales and at the moment the existing infrastructure for energy is actually on small scales.
And that's just been historical artifacts through time. And what we actually need to integrate these renewable sources cost effectively is to build these systems on the scale of weather and so that means that we have to build transmission lines, or so the model says, it builds transmission lines across the US to connect these distant regions together to provide power cheaply. SANDY MACDONALDgtgt Eisenhower said gee we need interstate highways because if you manufacture in one part of the us we want to be able to bring it elsewhere. It.
Robert Rutledge On Monitoring Space Weather
Solar activity overall follows a cycle of about an eleven year pattern, so where we have periods of very high activity with lots of sunspots and then periods of almost no activity and no space weather. Right now we're just coming out of a prolonged solar minimum. We really haven't had much for significant activity since something like December 2006. We started to get the first signs that the sun is waking up, and we've had some significant events lately as this continues we'll climb up to solar maximum, the peak in activity.
Around mid2013. Space weather plays out on a number of different time scales. The first piece, the solar flare piece, is really instant. When we're measuring it with our geosynchronous space craft it's here, it's affecting the earth. The next piece that comes with that is the radiation storm piece, so energetic particles impinging on satellites or astronauts in space. That can come in tens of minutes. The last piece is the piece associated with the coronal mass ejection, a large part of the atmosphere being blown off the sun at.
Really fantastic speeds. Coronal mass ejections is one part of space that gets a lot of attention that's where a cloud of mass, billions of tons, is being ejected from the sun and is coming towards earth. This can come off from anywhere from one to five million miles an hour making that ninety three million mile trip in anywhere from seventeen, eighteen hours in the fastest cases, up to several days. These are huge, huge eruptions. So if you see the whole heliosphere, you could see that it's affecting a third or a quarter.
Or even approaching a half of the heliosphere. We're constantly pushing the bounds of how well we can model and predict space weather. There's a lot going on in academia. We've done a good job of getting models now into operation that describe, when will a CME, that large cloud of gas that gets ejected from the sun and affects the earth, when will it get here, how will it hit us. The range of customers for space weather products is really quite varied. We have a flare piece, that electromagnetic piece that affects the.
Sunlit side of the earth, and that's important to HF communication users. If you've flown on an aircraft across the Atlantic or the Pacific chances are that information was being relayed to that aircraft through the use of HF communication. We also have a range of customers in the satellite arena, so radiation can be created in these storms, where charged particles have the energy to pass through satellites. That can cause the memory in those satellites to become corrupted. Satellite providers have to be very careful not to upload a critical set of instructions, try to load new software or try to do complicated maneuvers.
Because they can be corrupted, even leading to the loss of that asset. The same is true for our partners at NASA with the humans in space. These same charged particles can pass through humans causing biological damage. CME's can cause very large geomagnetic storms. The most important customers for that are people in the electrical generation industries, people that are generating the power and responsible for transmitting it around the country. Those storms can cause large currents to be induced in their systems causing heating and even damage. If we can give them an advance notice to say, tomorrow, we're going to have a.
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El Nio and La Nia Explained
Warmer or colder than average ocean temperatures in one part of the world can influence weather around the globe boggles the mind, right Here's how it works. During normal conditions, trade winds, which blow from east to west, push warm surface waters towards Asia, piling it up in the western Pacific. In some years though, the trade winds weaken. The warm surface water moves eastward and reduces upwelling of cold water off the coast of South America. Climatologists call this El Nio. Its climate impacts show up mostly in the wintertime over North America.
The warmer ocean fuels an intensification and southward shift of the jet stream. This brings flooding to the Southern United States and warmer, drier conditions over parts of the Pacific northwest, northern U.S. and Canada. But eventually those trade winds pick up again and sometimes become even stronger than normal. When that happens, they blow the warm water back into the western Pacific and restart the upwelling of cool water towards the surface in the eastern Pacific. These strong trade winds are a signature of what is called La Nia, unusually cold conditions in the tropical.
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