Finding Space Weather Reports

By Scott Spangler on February 6th, 2023

If you keep reading the Aviation Weather Handbook, FAA-H-8083-28, you’ll learn that space weather reports are officially known at the Space Weather Advisory in chapter 26.7. It is a newcomer to the universe of meteorology. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) brought it into being in late 2019.

It unites the services of four “global space weather providers.” In the United States, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the go-to source. Then there is the consortium of space weather agencies from Australia, Canada, France, and Japan (ACFJ). Next in the space weather acronym parade is PECASUS, for the Pan-European Consortium for Aviation Space Weather Services. Finland leads this group that includes Belgium, the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Austria, and Cyprus. The China-Russian Federation Consortium (CRC) rounds out the quartet.

On a rotating basis, the members of this space weather quartet issue global Space Weather Advisories when processes are occurring on the Sun or in the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that could have a potential impact to the near-Earth environment. The specific targets are high-frequency communications, satellite communications, satellite-based navigation and surveillance systems (GNSS), and when heightened radiation occurs above Flight Level 250.

When space weather crosses one of ICAOs predefined thresholds for moderate (MOD) and severe (SEV) impacts, the member of the quarter whose turn it is issues a Space Weather Advisory. The table presenting the thresholds subdivides the effects, sub-effects, and MOD and SEV impacts within the advisory areas. Of operational interest to aviators are possible degraded or unreliable services.

In 6, 12, 18, and 24-hour forecasts, the Space Weather Advisory defines the affected area of the globe in one of three ways. The easiest to picture is the Daylight Side. Then there are six pre-defined 30°-wide latitude bands that work their ways north and south from the equator. Finally, there is a polygon patch defined by latitude and longitude coordinates.

The handbook next delves into the alphanumeric format of the Space Weather Advisory. If you’re interested in seeing it, or you need to comprehend it to increase your operational safety, set aside some study time.

For the merely curious, spending time on NOAA SWPC website is more rewarding. The color-coded Space Weather Scales break down the consequences, from extreme to minor, for Geomagnetic Storms, Solar Radiation Storms, and (most important to aviators) Radio Blackouts, subdivided by HF radio and the spectrum of navigation systems.

A single glance at the SWPC homepage briefs you on the 24-hour observed maximums and latest observed conditions for R (radio blackouts), S (solar radiation storms), and G (geomagnetic storms) based on the scales. When I looked at them, each reported “none.” It lists some of the condition below, such as “Solar Wind Speed: 468 km/sec.”

The site provides current (space) news and features on such topics as the “Green Comet” and more specific information for the various space weather communities, including aviation, GPS, radio communications, satellites, and space weather geeks. Because it’s listed first, I’m guessing the Aurora community is the most popular, which seems only right and true for space weather’s only esthetically pleasing consequence. –Scott Spangler, Editor


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