The Advent Of Space Weather Programs

Space weather observation and prediction began in earnest in the middle of the 20th century in order to support radar and communication systems that were found to be vulnerable to solar disturbances, various ionospheric phenomena and magnetic storms. Vigorous forecasting services were developed in a number of countries, including the USA, and these became internationalized over time. Much of this data sharing was fostered by the realization that the solar-terrestrial environment is of global concern. In Chapter 5, prediction systems are described, and Table 5-4 is a list of some historical milestones.

In the middle 1990s, the United States embarked on a multi-agency initiative entitled the National Space Weather Program, NSWP, based upon the need to improve the Nation's ability to specify and forecast space weather. A strategic plan has been published along with an implementation plan [NSWP, 1995, 2000], This effort has provided considerable focus to the space weather issue, and the implementation plan serves as a useful guide. Being broadly directed across many technological disciplines, the NSWP may put a different slant in its portrayal of what constitutes mission success. In the rather narrow field of radio communications, this author has looked at things that will provide the greatest level of improvement in actual system performance. Clearly the emphasis in this manuscript is on improvements achievable in the realm of ionospheric specification while recognizing there is a distinct need for improvement in more general forecasting technologies for geospace applications.

The NSWP is but one of many efforts that are focused on the phenomena of space weather and its consequences. A summary of civilian agency and DoD initiatives are described in Chapter 6, including regional programs (i.e., Australia, Asia, Canada and Europe) and international programs such as those organized under the aegis of COSPAR.

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