Space Weather and Atmosphere team
Large explosions on the Sun known as coronal mass ejections can spew out billions of tons of charged particles and magnetic field into space. When these disturbances reach the Earth they can trigger geomagnetic storms and increase particle radiation levels, causing disruption to power grids, satellites, aviation, and a host of other dependent businesses. These effects are known as Space Weather. Solar variations are also linked to changes in the atmosphere and surface temperature in the Polar Regions but how this occurs and how it affects weather and climate are open questions.
The goal of the Space Weather and Atmosphere team is to understand how solar variations affect the Earth’s space radiation environment, upper atmosphere and climate in the Polar Regions.
Our research provides the information needed by the Space Industry, UK Insurance and Government to mitigate the effects of severe Space Weather, and to assess the solar contribution to climate change in the Polar Regions.
- Space radiation environment. To measure, simulate and predict changes in space radiation environment as they affect satellites, and to develop realistic scenarios of severe space weather events. These results are being used to assess which satellite orbits are most at risk and to develop better mitigation guidelines. They are also being used to provide real-time situation awareness for satellite operators.
- Atmospheric heating. To measure the heating and upward expansion of the polar atmosphere due to electrical currents set up during geomagnetic storms. This process, known as Joule heating, is the largest uncertainty in orbit prediction for satellites and space debris. The results will help provide better collision avoidance measures between satellites and space debris in low Earth orbit.
- Space-atmosphere coupling. To measure changes in atmospheric chemistry caused by particle precipitation and assess how they can affect the heating and cooling of the upper atmosphere. These results are being used in models to determine how they couple through the atmosphere to affect surface temperature and to determine their effect on polar climate.
- Solar effects on climate. To measure changes in the geoelectric field and understand how it can affect the atmosphere. Changes in the geoelectric field between the ground and the ionosphere have been linked to changes in atmospheric temperature, from the surface upwards.
Technology, innovation and training
- Using High Frequency over-the-horizon radars to understand coupling between the Sun, solar wind and the upper atmosphere, and the transport of charged particles in the radiation belts
- Using Medium Frequency radars to measure high altitude winds and atmospheric circulation in the polar vortex
- Developing state-of-the-art sub-millimetre radiometer technology to measure upper atmosphere winds and chemistry with Cambridge University
- Using an array of remote, low power magnetometers to measure changes in the geomagnetic field and electrical currents generated by Space Weather
- Using the BAS radiation belt model to simulate and predict the Earth’s radiation environment for satellites (a model equivalent to a general circulation model in atmospheric science)
- Exploiting data collected by constellations of satellites on charged particles, electromagnetic fields and atmospheric composition
- Training young scientists via PhD studentships with the Cambridge Earth System Science NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, the Open University, and via short term student vacation projects
Influencing and leading international programmes
- Continue setting scientific priorities as one of the PI Groups in the international SuperDARN radar network, and the AARDDVARK radio receiver consortium
- Continue leading the European Union SPACESTORM project
- Continue to play a leading role in the International Association of Geophysics and Aeronomy (IAGA), and the VLF/ELF Remote Sensing of the Ionosphere and Magnetosphere (VERSIM) scientific planning
- Continue providing expert advice to the Cabinet Office and UK Government departments through our membership of the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group reporting to the Department of Business, Innovation and Science
- Continue our collaborations with the space industry including UK insurance, European satellite operators and satellite designers, through our leadership of the European SPACESTORM project
- Organising an annual end-user lunch at the European Space Weather Week jointly with the European Space Agency
- Continue representing the UK on the Council of the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) radar and supporting UK users of the facility
- Disseminating information by publishing our results in high-impact peer reviewed Journals, giving presentations at international conferences and issuing press releases when appropriate
- Organising and running scientific sessions at International conferences
Space Weather Researcher
Senior Space Weather Researcher
Radiation Belt Modeller
Middle Atmosphere Vertical Coupling Analyst
Particle Data Analyst
Middle Atmosphere Physicist
Geomagnetic Field Researcher
Radiation Belt Modeller
13 June, 2016
Energetic electrons are an important space weather hazard. In this paper we apply extreme value analysis to 16 years of operational satellite data from the NOAA Polar Operational Environmental Satellites …
23 November, 2015
New season tackles ambitious science and logistical challenges The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) 2015/16 field season is underway with dozens of scientists and support staff – together with planes and tonnes …
4 June, 2015
FREE event: ‘Discover Antarctica’ at British Geological Survey Open Day, Saturday 27 June, 10am-4pm Staff from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will showcase its work at this year’s British Geological Survey …
6 May, 2015
NERC Research Experience Placement 2015 A Research Experience Placement supported by EnvEast DTP and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is available at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) this …
14 October, 2014
Study of electrons in space could help weather forecasting Researchers have discovered a formerly undetected impact of space weather on the polar atmosphere, which may explain some previously unexplained variations …
23 May, 2014
Earth’s magnetic field is important for climate change at high altitudes New research, published this week, has provided scientists with greater insight into the climatic changes happening in the upper …
9 June, 2013
Space weather forecasting system used by satellite operators Weather forecasting is a tricky enough job on Earth, but doing it for the outer atmosphere and beyond is even more problematic. …
30 August, 2012
British Antarctic Survey scientists involved in NASA ‘space weather’ mission WASHINGTON — NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), the first twin-spacecraft mission designed to explore the Earth’s radiation belts, launched …
29 March, 2011
Major EU-funded space weather initiative launched and managed in UK A major EU-funded initiative to improve ‘space weather’ forecasting will hold its inaugural meeting in the UK on Tuesday 29 …
20 October, 2010
New space research settles years of scientific debate New space research published this week (Thursday 21 October) in the journal Nature, has settled decades of scientific debate. Researchers from the …