Welcome to the UK Space Safety Engagement Meetings: A short series of UK Space weather and space safety engagement meetings. These meetings are open to the entire space-weather/space safety communities and are not restricted to UK participants. Registration is free (please see the registration page from the menu) and the meetings will take place over the Zoom platform – you must register in order to receive the Zoom link – this will be E-Mailed out to registrants on Monday 22nd March 2021. These meetings will also be recorded and hosted as per the terms of the registration process for future viewing.
This three-day mini-series starts on Wednesday 24th March 2021 with an overview of the UK’s Space Environment Impact Experts Group (SEIEG) work on a set of Reasonable Worst-Case Scenarios (RWCS) for space weather that produced both a technical document (Hapgood et al., 2020) and a full descriptive peer-reviewed article (Hapgood et al., 2021). This is followed by an afternoon of the Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) ~£20M project including its progress to date and plans/opportunities for the future on Thursday 25th March 2021. We conclude on Friday 26th March 2021 with a full day follow-on UK Space Safety Meeting picking up where we left off on 20th August 2020 and providing relevant updates, progress on “actions”, etc… Please scroll down for further detail on each of the elements, and for a more-detailed breakdown of the activities each day, please see the programme page from the menu.
Day 1: Wednesday 24th March 2021 – Development of Space Weather Reasonable Worst-Case Scenarios for the UK National Risk Assessment.
Severe space weather was identified as a risk to the UK in 2010 as part of a wider review of natural hazards following the societal disruption that arose when UK and European airspace was closed in April 2010 due to volcanic ash. To support further risk assessment by government officials, the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group (SEIEG) was then set up to provide an independent source of expert advice to those officials. Since 2011 the Group has provided an evolving set of reasonable worst-case scenarios on how severe space weather conditions could disrupt various critical national infrastructures, e.g. energy, transport, communications, and satellites. These scenarios have enabled officials to assess the resilience of UK infrastructure against space weather, to include that assessment in the National Risk Register, and to initiate many actions to improve UK space-weather resilience. The scenarios show that government officials must prepare for the near-simultaneous occurrence of many different problems during a severe space weather event, including the need to consider how public behaviour will play out during a severe space weather event.
This presentation will comprise a short talk to outline key elements of the scientific evidence used to develop these scenarios, followed by an open question and answer session. More details of this scientific evidence is available in an open access paper published on 3 February 2021 (as referenced above) including in the associated technical document from 2020 (also referenced above), and in the below image is a key example of why the UK needs these scenarios. The image shows a 60-year timeline of severe space weather events and their known adverse impacts on the UK (specific to the UK), and notes the possibility of a severe event sometime in next decade if the Sun becomes very active, which is a fascinating scientific question that underlies a serious societal risk to the UK (and all other countries around the world – both developed and developing alike).
UK Space Weather Storm Timeline Figure
Day 2: Thursday 25th March 2021 – The SWIMMR Programme Overview.
SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk) is a ~£20 million, four-year programme that will improve the UK's capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. There is an emphasis on space radiation, which can affect aircraft systems, changes in the upper atmosphere affecting communications and satellite orbits, and surges in the current in power grids and other ground-level systems. These are significant risks to the infrastructures we rely on in daily life and are recorded in the UK's National Risk Register.
The SWIMMR programme will develop and deploy new instruments, models and services to support the UK space weather community and the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC). This programme will significantly add to the UK's capability to predict and mitigate the hazards of space weather, as well as providing a basis for wider international collaboration over the ~four-year lifetime of the proposal and beyond.
SWIMMR is funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), delivered by the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to drive an increase in high-quality multi- and inter-disciplinary research and innovation, ensuring that UKRI's investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. The programme is a collaboration led by the UKRI’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and supported by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The SWIMMR programme has been outlined in close association with MOSWOC.
The SWIMMR programme is being delivered through a series of activities managed through UKRI either by STFC or by NERC. The STFC funding component is being delivered via a mixture of Research Council grants and commissioned work under standard public sector procurement rules. The NERC funding component is being carried out via Research Council grants. Both types of activity will directly help improve the ability of MOSWOC to predict space-weather events so as to reduce their potential impact.
During this afternoon, more details of the SWIMMR programme will be provided. This will include a summary of the work currently commissioned and underway, as well as plans for upcoming SWIMMR opportunities and potential synergies with other space weather activities beyond the current programme.
Day 3: Friday 26th March 2021 – UK Space Safety Meeting.
Image credit: ESA
Following on from the 20th August 2020 UK Space Safety Meeting there will be another one-day discussion on all the pertinent aspects of Space Safety to the UK from the ESA programme and beyond. This includes space weather, SST, space debris, etc… This meeting is to ensure everyone is up to date on the Space Safety Programme and enable us to share detail of what is being delivered and what we are still seeking to achieve from our £80M investment. Additionally, we are hoping it will be an excellent forum to identify opportunities and risks in the current programme and provide evidence towards making cases for future investments. There will also be “action” updates from the previous meeting and opportunities for discussion in each of the relevant topics. More details will follow in due course – so please check back for updates.