Met Office granted £20m to improve severe space weather forecast

Space weather, such as flares or winds from the Sun’s surface or geomagnetic storms, can damage British satellites and cause power disruptions

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a £20 million boost to help the Met Office improve systems that can better predict weather in space.

Space weather, such as flares or winds from the Sun’s surface or geomagnetic storms, can damage British satellites and cause power disruptions, issues to air transportation and problems across communications systems, such as GPS and mobile phone networks.

The latest investment will be used by the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC), which provides 24/7 forecasts and warnings of space weather for government, critical national infrastructure providers and the public.

It will look closely at space weather innovation, measurement, modelling and risk assessment.

By predicting where and when space weather events take place, the Met Office can issue warnings and advice that will allow operators to take necessary action, such as manoeuvring satellites and isolating parts of the power network to ensure the least amount of disruption possible.

Mr Johnson said: “From solar flares to magnetic storms, space weather can have a massive impact on mobile phones, transport, GPS signals and the electricity networks we rely on every day at home.

“The funding announced today will help turn Britain’s pioneering research into practical solutions that will protect against any adverse disruption caused by cosmic chaos.”

The Met Office added the funding will help to upgrade UK capabilities in space weather modelling and measurement.

Head of MOSWOC Mark Gibbs said: “This is an important milestone in the development of space weather forecasts here in the UK and will see the biggest change in MOSWOC capability since the majority of services were introduced in 2014.

We look forward to working with UK universities and research institutes to maximise the return on this investment.”