observe is going to make the difference between what we can predict and what we can’t.” He further stated that “prediction is the key to the future and is the answer to helping customers make good business decisions and maintain their continuity of operations.” He was hopeful that modeling of CMEs from the Sun to Earth would be the most beneficial in this regard since the transit time ranges from 20 hours to 3 days. He further stated that the capability of modeling CMEs is very mature and could be implemented in the near future. From an economic and societal perspective, the benefits could be substantial, given that CMEs have a demonstrated potential to cause large adverse impacts. Bogdan was not hopeful about modeling of solar flares in the near future.
St. Cyr of NASA asked where in each of the panel member organizations space weather data would be used and whether it would be used in terrestrial weather offices. Stills said that space weather was handled by United’s terrestrial weather desk in order to have a single point of contact. McGovern described his organization’s reliance on an industry group known as NERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which was established to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America. NERC receives its space weather data from the NOAA SWPC. Ott said that space weather warnings are handled separately at OmniSTAR since terrestrial weather does not affect differential GPS corrections. He raised a further question about ionospheric storms and “bubbles” in the ionosphere that affect GPS signals and asked how we know when such bubbles have dissipated. Bogdan responded that ionospheric modeling is sophisticated and could, he believed, be used to predict when such dissipation would occur. Joseph Fennel of the Aerospace Corporation pointed out that half of the anomalies observed on spacecraft occur when there is no large storm activity on the Sun, but rather when energy is transferred within the magnetosphere, a process defined as a substorm, and that modeling of these events will be much more difficult.
Ott also said that for about 10,000 subscribers in the United States and double that worldwide, in applications ranging from agriculture to offshore oil exploration, engineering, and production, if GPS or the OmniSTAR correction service becomes unavailable long enough to disrupt an operation, it can cost up to “tens of millions of dollars.” For example, a seismic survey costs about $60,000 per day, and it takes hours to repeat a lost survey line. If positioning control for offshore drill rigs is lost, it can take 2 days to re-position the rig and re-fit the pipe, with an operating cost of about $2 million per day. Loss of the positioning reference also could risk dragging a 50-ton anchor over an oil pipeline. Tom Stansell of Stansell Consulting said that whereas these interruptions can be and have been caused by the effects of a highly disturbed ionosphere on dual-frequency GPS measurements with “semi-codeless” receivers, such problems will be all but eliminated (with rare exceptions) as the GPS constellation becomes fully populated by “modernized” satellites carrying the second civil signal, L2C, and beyond that the third civil signal, L5. OmniSTAR uses NOAA SWPC products to warn users of potential space weather effects, but Ott noted that so many warnings have been false alarms that customers stop paying attention and are upset when a loss of service does occur. New signals to be provided by the GPS III satellites are expected to greatly mitigate these problems by about 2014.
Louis Leffler, retired from NERC, pointed out that, historically, space weather has affected new technologies differently from previously used technologies. He cited the shift from the telegraph to the radio for long-range communications and the unexpected effects that solar weather had on the ionosphere and on radio signal propagation. As technologies become more sophisticated, the sophistication of the underlying physics and chemistry needs to improve, because we are going to be surprised in the future, just as we have been in the past. Todd La Porte of George Mason Univesity supported these points and reminded the audience that even though the nuclear power industry had operated highly reliably for some time and still does, the single Three Mile Island incident in March 1979 was followed by essentially a 100 percent cessation of new nuclear reactor construction in the United States because of a loss of confidence by the public. He posited that it is a fact that we will experience large solar weather storms in the future, albeit infrequently, and we should be open-minded to the fact that surprises will occur. But the public does not necessarily respond to such surprises in a rational manner, and there are often unintended consequences.
The U.S. federal government has chosen to coordinate space weather responsibilities through the NSWP, which includes NASA, the Department of Commerce (NOAA), the Department of Defense, the National Science Foun-