Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Space Weather Week

I’m in Colorado right now attending the Space Weather Workshop. During my first semester at the Space Policy Institute, I did research on Space Weather, Aviation, and Space Flight, and helped to run a workshop on the issue. Professor Henry Hertzfeld, Professor Ray Williamson, and I are completing a final report based on some research I did on what the effects are as well as the results of the workshop.

The workshop is held at the Millenium Hotel in Boulder, CO. I’ve never been to Boulder before, so that’s been a fun experience. I have a beautiful view from my room. After the first session on Monday, I spent some time working on my Space Law paper sitting on my balcony looking at the mountains. Somehow it makes doing work seem much less stressful.

I’m taking notes at the conference and hope to post as much as I can on what I learn from each presentation and session.

Space Weather and Aviation Workshop

The conference doesn’t technically begin until Tuesday, but there was an optional workshop on Space Weather and Aviation from 1pm-5pm Monday. Since this is exactly the topic that I’ve been working on, I flew in early enough to attend.

There were presentations by multiple groups within this community, and the focus was on trying to make the needs of the users understood. There was a panel that included two pilots and a dispatcher, which I found very interesting. One of the pilots pointed out that unlike terrestrial weather information, pilots have no access to space weather information while in flight. Even though pilots are empowered to take the action they think is necessary given current conditions, most do not know enough about space weather to take any action.

Another speaker talked about the need to make the business case for including space weather information into aviation decision making. He felt that the numbers, probabilities, and costs were not available at the level of fidelity needed for managers to make decisions.

One person, who had worked in meteorology and was now in space weather, asked if there are any channels for pilots to provide information back to the forecasters. He said that in meteorology, this is an important way for forecasters to understand when their predictions were not correct, and exactly what the actual conditions were. If pilots have trouble with HF Comms, that information should make its way back to the Space Weather Prediction Center to be included in analysis. This currently doesn’t exist, but I thought it was an interesting idea.

Another interesting comment was on the various types of predictions available. At the workshop we ran at GW, we found that users were interested in models and predictions even if they didn’t have all information or weren’t 100% confidence. This person commented that though it is difficult to predict the duration of Solar Proton Events, it is possible to predict with high confidence the minimum duration of the Solar Proton Event. This is the kind of information I think would be very useful to the aviation and space communities for the purposes of planning.

More to Come...

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