Today marks the last day of week-long conference in Helwan, Egypt forming the new International Space Weather Initiative. NASA, JAXA, and the United Nations have come together to discuss solar storms and how we can protect ourselves from them.
The ISWI was “prompted by a recent increase in solar activity,” which sounds ominous, though we assume they just mean the regular rise into solar maximum, which began in earnest early this year and should culminate around 2013. More accurately, they probably mean the group was prompted by the increase in solar activity along with our technological rise and dependence on Earth-orbiting satellites.
Hundreds of researchers invited to the workshop have been discussing how to fill gaps in monitoring stations around the world, particularly in developing countries that may not have the proper technology. Many of these developing countries are located on or near the equator, and one of the space weather issues the group wants to focus on is the “equatorial anomaly.” This phenomenon is “a fountain of ionization that circles the globe once a day, always keeping its spout towards the sun. During solar storms, the equatorial anomaly can intensify and shape-shift, bending GPS signals in unexpected ways and making normal radio communications impossible.” Indeed, this issue is one reason the conference was held in Egypt.
The three main goals of the ISWI are expanding instrumentation around the world, coordinating instrumentation with solar modeling, and public outreach to encourage, among other things, space science curricula. The website features a calendar of space weather meetings and workshops going on around the world, lists of books and other publications on the subject, and information on training.
If you’re not a space weather scientist but would like to know more on the subject, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, through their Education and Public Outreach department, has started a new series explaining space weather.