National Academies Press: OpenBook

Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment (2020)

Chapter: 4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations

« Previous: 3 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Research Goals and Recommendations
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

4

Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations

4.1 INTRODUCTION

The 2013 decadal survey (NRC, 2013) devoted an entire chapter to the topic of space weather and space climatology, an important application of heliophysics science. The decadal survey noted the necessity, from both economic and societal perspectives, of having reliable knowledge of geospace environmental conditions from the Sun to Earth over a range of timescales, including for forecasting space weather conditions up to several days ahead. Despite the well-documented vulnerability of essential societal, economic, and security services, space environment monitoring remains resource challenged.

The decadal survey stated that the committee “envisions a national commitment to a new program in solar and space physics that would provide long-term observations of the space weather environment and support the development and application of geospace models to protect critical societal infrastructure, including communication, navigation, and terrestrial weather spacecraft, through accurate forecasting of the space environment” (NRC, 2013, p. 141). In support of this vision, the decadal survey committee described new (notional) agency-specific activities that would be needed to develop the required capabilities.

Figure 4.1 shows the survey’s space weather–related decadal survey recommendations and summarizes progress to date in addressing these recommendations. Subsequent sections of this chapter discuss the progress in more detail. However, an important note is that the survey committee assumed the availability of new resources at each agency to implement its notional space weather and climatology program.

4.2 RECHARTER THE NATIONAL SPACE WEATHER PROGRAM

The Applications Recommendation 1 from the decadal survey reads as follows:

A1.0 Recharter the National Space Weather Program

As part of a plan to develop and coordinate a comprehensive program in space weather and climatology the survey committee recommends that the National Space Weather Program be

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Image
FIGURE 4.1 Highlights of progress and plans for the heliophysics decadal survey applications Recommendations. The National Solar Observatory’s GONG network of solar magnetograms is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOTE: R2O, research to operations; SWx, space weather.

rechartered under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council. With the active participation of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, the program should build on current agency efforts, leverage the new capabilities and knowledge that will arise from implementation of the programs recommended in this report, and develop additional capabilities, on the ground and in space, that are specifically tailored to space weather monitoring and prediction.

Two years after publication of decadal survey, both the 2015 National Space Weather Strategy (NSWS) (OSTP, 2015a) and the National Space Weather Action Plan (NSWAP) (OSTP, 2015b) were released. The NSWAP outlines an interagency initiative to organize and enhance the nation’s space weather monitoring, research, and forecasting infrastructure. In 2019, a new and more streamlined version of the NSWAP merged the 2015 NSWAP and the 2015 NSWS into a single National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan (NSWSAP) (OSTP, 2019). The 2019 NSWSAP identifies 14 agencies involved with assessing, implementing, and executing its goals and plans. The primary and secondary agencies responsible for each objective are clearly listed in the report. Unfortunately, no new funding was identified with the release of the NSWSAP, so there are serious challenges in implementing the plans in the 2019 report to their fullest extent.

The NSWSAP is a major national initiative in which NASA Heliophysics Division (HPD), two National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorates—Geoscience (GEO/AGS) and Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS/AST)—and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) SWPC (Space Weather Prediction Center) and NESDIS (National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service) play dominant roles. These entities must interface in a collaborative and highly effective manner to fulfill their NSWSAP roles and complete their agreed upon contributions. Whereas some of these directives are already part of their present and/or planned activities and programs, others require new actions.

The NSWSAP spurred a rethinking of agencies’ strategies for space weather that was not foreseen at the time of the decadal survey. Space weather-related assets and research within NASA’s Heliophysics Division are now generally viewed in light of the much larger picture of human uses of space and the space weather impacts on terrestrial technology and infrastructure. NASA has responded by expanding its role in space weather (SWx) science by establishing the Space Weather Science and Application (SWxSA)

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

program within its Heliophysics Division. The SWxSA program is distinguished from the other heliophysics research elements in that it is specifically focused on (1) advancing understanding of space weather, (2) applying this progress to more accurate characterization and predictions, and (3) developing transition tools, models, data, and knowledge from research to application. The SWxSA program plans to secure community expertise through the Heliophysics Advisory Committee (HPAC). One of the listed goals of SWxSA is to collaborate with other agencies and partner with user communities.

NASA’s SWxSA has developed strategic documents to address the following space weather goals: (1) the NASA SWxSA R2O Strategy, which focuses exclusively on research-to-operations (R2O), and (2) the Heliophysics Space Weather Science and Application Strategy (Spann, 2019). Both of these documents provide general direction for the agency, but neither addresses the “identification of capability gaps,” nor do they address when, how, or by whom the described tasks are to be executed. These details are left for what they describe as the implementation plan, which is presumed to be in development.

NASA’s plans for participation in the NSWAP, together with related progress, were reviewed in detail in the 2019 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report NASA’s Heliophysics Portfolio (NASA OIG, 2019). NASA has assigned all NSWSAP activities to HPD, although many of them directly impact the Human Exploration Division as well as technology considerations across all space exploration, technology, and support disciplines. Heliophysics funding toward fulfilling its NSWSAP task list (reproduced from the Appendix of NASA OIG [2019]) is limited by its current budget. Additional funds have been made available at NSF to support an operations-to-research (O2R)/R2O pilot program. NOAA has also allocated funds for a new SWO2R (Space Weather O2R) program administered by HPD. The SWO2R program objective is “broadly defined as the joint pursuit of improvements of operational capabilities and advancements in related fundamental research.” Toward this end, HPD hosted a NOAA detailee at NASA Headquarters to kick-start and manage the program.

While it is early to comment on the extent to which these research programs address the NSWSAP agenda, the OIG report (NASA OIG, 2019) specifically points out NASA’s “difficulty implementing several National Space Weather Action Plan tasks” (p. 23), which were attributed to “task complexity and shortage of NASA and partner agency officials’ subject matter expertise” (p. 23), unrealistic deadlines (p. 25), and “competing priorities at other agencies” (p. 26). The OIG report concludes, “Further delays in implementing NSWAP tasks could hinder the ability to predict, protect against, and mitigate adverse space weather incidents” (p. 26). In addition, the new directive to return humans to the Moon by 2024 adds further impetus to tasks related to space radiation impacts, including forecasting. This midterm committee agrees with the assessment of the OIG report.

The NSWAP laid out the basic issues and challenges relating to the development of reliable, actionable space weather forecasts for a wide user base. One of the complications is to transition deep scientific understanding of the complex web of Sun-Earth connections into tools and procedures that provide SWx forecasts. NASA and NSF are stimulating the advancement of our scientific understanding in a multitude of areas important to space weather applications. NOAA, NASA, and NSF have a good understanding of the transition protocol as demonstrated in the SWxSA strategy documents and Space Weather Benchmark Reports.1 Successful forecasting depends on a deep understanding of the multitude of connections and couplings between phenomena and domains. A clear plan to gain this deep understanding—as was described in the 2013 decadal survey—is missing. This will limit the success of the NSWAP.

An analysis of these issues was performed under the auspices of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), published in its 2015 space weather roadmap (Schrijver et al., 2015). This comprehensive, international, interdisciplinary analysis identified multiple key science area “gaps” that particularly need filling to increase forecast lead times and reliability. Among these gaps are better descriptions of instabili-

___________________

1 See, for example, NSTC (2018).

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

ties in the geomagnetic and solar magnetic fields, the processes of energization of particles in geospace, the structure and variability of the heliosphere and the solar atmosphere, and the exchanges of energy and momentum between the various drivers and coupled domains of space weather. The resulting roadmap identifies the highest-priority observables, models, and research focus areas based on current knowledge and infrastructure capabilities. This document is a resource that could be used, together with the NSWAP report, as the basis for defining Strategic Knowledge Gap (SKG) targets and exercises (e.g., such as those done for Lunar Radiation within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (Shearer et al., 2016). Such SKG targets could then be addressed within the existing NASA SWxSA and NSF space weather benchmarking activities.

Finding 4.1 The NASA SWxSA strategic documents are an excellent start to address the NSWSAP goals and responsibilities identified for NASA HPD. However, these documents do not “identify new research-based capabilities and outline expectations for gap-filling products.” The committee emphasizes the importance of a science gap analysis in order to develop implementation plans, interagency coordination, and budgets. NASA and NSF, in coordination with their research communities, and in consultation with NOAA, are best positioned to develop a scientific gap analysis to address the scientific and observational challenges that currently hamper the formulation of reliable space weather forecasts for timescales from several hours to a few days.

The analysis of critical gaps in our scientific understanding, modeling abilities, and essential observables is crucial as the foundation for the development of implementation plans that, in turn, form the basis for the required budget. The agencies can opt to initiate a new gap analysis, but several such efforts have been, in whole or in part, executed recently. The following reports that can be taken as input documents for such a gap analysis. First, there is the 2015 COSPAR roadmap, “Understanding Space Weather to Shield Society” (Schrijver et al., 2015), which founded its gap analysis on the highest-priority needs and highest-value forecasts identified by the space-weather user communities, as assembled by the NOAA SWPC. As such, the roadmap presents a study in line with the NSWAP and SWxSA initiatives. Another gap analysis is presented in the 2016 NSF Geospace Portfolio Review (Lotko et al., 2016), which lists “critical capabilities needed to make progress in achieving [decadal survey] goals” and is therefore more focused on the fundamentals of heliophysics than on its applied science aspects. A third document is the report of NASA’s Lunar Human Exploration team (Shearer et al., 2016), which identifies strategic knowledge gaps relating to human exploration of the Moon and beyond and is therefore strongly focused on NASA’s needs to specify and forecast solar energetic particles.

Each of these documents presents a gap analysis from a different perspective, thus their integration should form a comprehensive foundation for the gap analysis that the committee identified as needed for the space-weather applications component of NSWSAP. NASA could consult its SMD HPAC, the Committee on Solar and Space Physics of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or other advisory entities on the most effective and expedient ways to develop this analysis. Alternatives to working with the existing gap analyses include performing a new gap analysis with multiagency input, or partnering with COSPAR as it plans to update its SWx roadmap that assesses science gaps from an international, global perspective. The committee encourages NASA to opt for coordinating with COSPAR.

Finding 4.2 Stable funding lines were not identified for the work defined in the NSWSAP. The development of a scientific gap analysis, and an associated prioritization of required observables, models, data systems, and R2O/O2R projects are needed in order to develop a well-founded budget for the NSWSAP-related tasks of NASA, NSF, NOAA, and other agencies.

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

4.3 PROGRESS ON A MULTI-AGENCY PARTNERSHIP TO ACHIEVE CONTINUITY OF SOLAR AND SOLAR WIND OBSERVATIONS

The decadal survey included a series of recommendations concerning operational space weather measurements and products. For example, the decadal survey stressed the need to maintain the continuity of critical measurements for space weather applications and the agency partnerships that would be required to achieve this. Additionally, the decadal survey made recommendations concerning the evaluation of new observations, platforms and locations, as well as NOAA’s role in establishing a clear path to transition research to operations. Finally, the decadal survey noted that distinct funding lines for space weather research, and for space weather specification and forecasting, are needed. This new growth opportunity could further enhance the heliophysics workforce (a topic in this report’s Chapter 5).

Decadal Survey Recommendation A2.0 states:

The survey committee recommends that NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense work in partnership to plan for continuity of solar and solar wind observations beyond the lifetimes of ACE, SOHO, STEREO, and SDO. In particular:

A2.1 Solar wind measurements from L1 should be continued, because they are essential for space weather operations and research. The DSCOVR L1 monitor and IMAP STP mission are recommended for the near term, but plans should be made to ensure that measurements from L1 continue uninterrupted into the future.

A2.2 Space-based coronagraph and solar magnetic field measurements should likewise be continued.

A2.3 The space weather community should evaluate new observations, platforms, and locations that have the potential to provide improved space weather services. In addition, the utility of employing newly emerging information dissemination systems for space weather alerts should be assessed.

A2.4 NOAA should establish a space weather research program to effectively transition research to operations.

A2.5 Distinct funding lines for basic space physics research and for space weather specification and forecasting should be developed and maintained.

4.3.1 Progress on Decadal Survey Applications Recommendation A2.1: Continuous Solar Wind Observations from L1

Forecasting of space weather relies on observational input of conditions on the Sun, in the inner heliosphere, and near Earth. The decadal survey recognized in particular the importance of having uninterrupted measurements of solar wind observations from Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1 (L1). In situ magnetic field and particle measurements in the near-upstream region of the solar wind provide the properties of incoming disturbances some 15 minutes to 1 hour before these disturbances reach Earth. These observations are essential to short-term space weather forecasts, for situational awareness in geospace, and as inputs for

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

comprehensive models of the space environment. The NASA Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft has provided solar wind measurements at L1 since 1997, and its mission has been extended well past its design life to support space weather operations. Concerns about ACE’s advancing age precipitated earlier coordinated agency discussions and actions leading to the refurbishment of plasma and field instrumentation available from the unlaunched Triana spacecraft.2 Following the decadal survey, these updated instruments were launched on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft in 2015 as a partnership of NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Air Force to provide solar wind measurements at L1.

ACE continues to operate and was recently reclassified by NASA as an operational asset considered separate from extended scientifically focused missions. DSCOVR is approaching its planned mission life of 5 years while IMAP, with in situ solar wind measurements, is in Phase A with launch to L1 planned for October 2024. Considering the 2019 anomalies for DSCOVR and the advancing age of the ACE spacecraft, there is concern for a gap in L1 solar measurements until the IMAP spacecraft comes online in late 2024 to continue solar wind measurements at L1. In addition to the space weather-related in situ instruments on the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), the ESPA ring on the IMAP launch will carry NOAA’s first SWFO-L1 (Space Weather Follow-On) space weather monitor,3 which is potentially the first of a new operational line of L1 assets.

4.3.2 Progress on Decadal Survey Applications Recommendation A2.2: Continuous Space-Based Coronagraph and Solar Magnetic Field Measurements

The decadal survey identified continuous space-based photospheric (solar surface) magnetic field measurements and coronagraphic observations as key space weather data. For early forecasting, the photospheric magnetic field provides the first signs of potentially active (e.g., flaring or eruptive) conditions and is also the basis for still-developing space weather forecast models. Currently, the HMI magnetograph on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is making space-based measurements of the photospheric magnetic field. SDO was launched in 2010 with a mission design lifetime of 5 years; it is currently operating successfully in its extended mission phase. Several planned missions will carry next-generation magnetographs to continue and expand perspectives on the state of the Sun’s surface magnetic field.

A mission concept to observe the Sun far from the Sun-Earth line at the L5 vantage point (trailing Earth by some 60 degrees in its orbit around the Sun) is currently being discussed with the European Space Agency (ESA) as a potential partner. Among its other space weather instrumentation, this mission would carry a magnetograph to provide advanced warning of developing active regions before they rotate onto the visible disk of the Sun. A new mission with an additional capable magnetograph, ESA’s Solar Orbiter, is already due to launch into a heliocentric orbit in February 2020. This mission will orbit the Sun between the orbit of Mercury and 1 AU at increasingly high latitudes, providing important new insights on the solar surface polar and farside fields. Measurements from the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager instrument aboard the Solar Orbiter will be available, but only in campaign-mode. Thus, these measurements will have long delays in data availability and are thus not suitable for real-time space weather monitoring.

The ground-based Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) chain of magnetographs is in the meantime an important, and widely used, complementary observatory to SDO/HMI. Moreover, GONG magnetographs could provide an alternative source of data should anything happen to disrupt the continuous data stream from SDO. NSO is currently working on upgraded instrumentation for GONG, and an

___________________

2 See EOPortal, “DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory),” https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/d/dscovr.

3 See National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, “Space Weather Follow-On L1 Mission,” https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/OPPA/swfo-L1.php.

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

interagency agreement is in place between NSO and NOAA to continue funding of GONG through 2021, with a likely extension to support NOAA’s space weather operations in the near future (as described in this report’s Chapter 3.) Currently, an L1 or geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) magnetograph replacement for SDO HMI is not included the near-term plan.

Coronagraphic observations provide essential information on the initial speed and direction of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) when they first occur at the Sun. Coronagraph images, often used in conjunction with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) images like those available from SDO-Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, are used to predict if and when the related interplanetary shocks and plasma and field disturbances will impact L1 and then Earth’s magnetosphere, causing a magnetic storm. Ground-based coronagraph observations, such as those from Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, can provide some of the information on CMEs and other solar activity, but these ground-based facilities depend on the local time at the observatory location and are also extremely sensitive to Earth weather conditions. In the absence of a suitable global network, continued space-based observations were identified as essential in the decadal survey. Currently, space-based coronagraph observations come from the LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) instrument on the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) spacecraft, the COR1 and COR2 imagers on the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft,4 and WISPR (Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe) on the Parker Solar Probe. Additionally, there will soon be coronagraph observations from METIS5 on ESA’s Solar Orbiter. SOHO was launched in 1995, and is currently maintained only for its coronagraph observations for space weather operations. NOAA’s near-future plans for coronagraph observations include flying the Naval Research Laboratory Compact Coronagraph (CCOR) on both the SWFO mission to L1 mentioned above that will launch with IMAP in 2024 and also on the geosynchronous Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-U spacecraft (to become GOES-18 after its launch in 2024). Having two near-Earth space-based coronagraphs simultaneously would be unprecedented. The selection of the PUNCH6 project as a NASA Small Explorer to be launched around 2022 will provide additional coronagraph observations, but as a research mission rather than a dedicated space weather monitoring facility.7

Finding 4.3 Currently, the combination of ACE and DISCOVR in situ particle and field measurements at L1, the GOES solar EUV imager and solar EUV and X-ray irradiance sensors at GEO, the ground-based GONG network for solar magnetograms, and the SOHO LASCO coronagraph at L1 provide the primary set of space weather monitoring assets, with support from SDO solar observations at GEO and STEREO solar and in situ observations in an Earth trailing/leading orbit. NOAA has plans to continue in situ solar wind observations at L1, to establish new coronagraph observations at L1 and at GEO, and to continue their support of solar magnetograms in the GONG network.

4.3.3 Progress on Decadal Survey Applications Recommendation A2.3: Evaluate New Observations, Platforms, and Locations

As mentioned above, the agencies involved in NSWSAP, primarily NASA and NOAA, have seriously engaged in the study and implementation of a space weather monitoring observatory at the L5 location. An aggressive plan on the part of ESA to carry out the Lagrange operational mission,8 with desired participation from the United States, is under way. ESA’s original goal for the Lagrange mission was to be online at

___________________

4 STEREO-A, which also includes an EUV imager, is still operational, but not STEREO-B.

5 Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy.

6 Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere.

7 See the 2019 National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan (OSTP, 2019).

8 See European Space Agency, “The Lagrange Mission,” https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Safety/Lagrange_mission2, accessed December 16, 2019.

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

L5 before the next solar maximum in approximately 2025, but current plans appear to have a launch no earlier than 2027. ESA and NOAA have together developed an operational plan where NOAA provides space weather observations at L1, while ESA provides space weather observations near L5. NASA’s participation is still under discussion. In the meantime, other future mission discussions include a complementary observatory at L4, which is on the other side of Earth at an equivalent to the L5 location (with L4 leading Earth and L5 trailing). As discussed in subsections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 above, NOAA has a new SWFO line to have space weather operational missions at L1, with its first launch in 2024. International collaboration for space weather looks promising: India plans a 2022 launch for a space weather mission to L1, and both China and India are developing L5/L4 space weather missions. Further possibilities for future consideration involve a “L1-L5 drifter” and a “string of pearls”9—mission concept that envision gradual population of the entire Earth orbit, with solar and space weather monitors surrounding the Sun.

Finding 4.4 NASA and NOAA are conducting a dialogue with ESA regarding participation in the Lagrange operational mission to the L5 location. NOAA is developing a formal agreement with ESA for its L5 mission, but no agreements are yet in place for NASA. Additional observations, platforms, and locations are informally discussed as a part of the ongoing agency and community interactions and communications relevant to the NSWSAP. Coordination with India and China could further enhance space weather observations at the L1, L4, and L5 locations.

4.3.4 Progress on Applications Recommendations A2.4: Establish a SWx Research Program at NOAA for R2O and A2.5: Develop Distinct Programs for Space Physics Research and Space Weather Specifications and Forecasting

The decadal survey provided a concise general vision for the growth of space weather activities. Most of their guidance was directed at NASA, with only limited treatment regarding the roles of NSF and NOAA, and passing mention of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy. Since 2013, space weather has been elevated to a bonafide issue of national security, with multiple documents providing specific recommendations and benchmarks on how the agencies should proceed. The explosive increase in public and political interest in space weather represents a significant divergence from the decadal survey. Heliophysics activities must consider this new status and implement new guidance moving forward.

The support for O2R and R2O efforts is evolving, starting first with an O2R/R2O research opportunity in 2017 co-funded by NASA and NOAA. In 2018, NSF also solicited an O2R research opportunity, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) consolidated the NOAA-NASA funding for O2R/R2O solely into the NASA Heliophysics budget. OMB is also expanding this research within NASA’s new SWxSA program with $20 million planned for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Space weather is a rapidly evolving area, and many aspects regarding future plans and funding will likely have progressed by the time this midterm report is published.

Finding 4.5 The decadal survey did not address the specific contributions of the primary agencies (NASA, NSF, NOAA, DoD) to the National Space Weather Program. In particular, the role of research targeting the magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere was not represented in the decadal survey at a level commensurate with current NSWSAP priorities. The NOAA/NASA/NSF support for O2R/R2O efforts is evolving with the majority of this research being planned in FY 2020 under NASA HMD’s new SWxSA program.

___________________

9 See, for example, Vourlidas et al. (2018).

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

Since the decadal survey was published, the landscape has changed with respect to the numbers and designs of space-based platforms and related infrastructure. First, there is more widespread use of small satellites, including CubeSats, for research, education, commercial, and other purposes. Second, there is a general movement toward options for shared launch opportunities. This midterm assessment also notes that HSO assets are aging just as the HSO, as a programmatic framework, is being increasingly used.

In 2018, the previously mentioned space weather benchmark report (also called the White House’s Space Weather Phase 1 Benchmarks report [OSTP, 2018]) was released, addressing one of the NSWAP’s deliverables. This report provided initial benchmarks for five phenomena associated with space weather events: induced geo-electric fields, ionizing radiation, ionospheric disturbances, solar radio bursts, and upper atmospheric expansion. These benchmarks are designed to capture an event’s ability to affect the nation as well as provide clear and consistent descriptions of space weather events based on current scientific understanding and the historical record. More recently, the Next Step Benchmarks study, an NSF- and NASA-funded task, was formed to re-evaluate the Phase 1 benchmarks with respect to their application to extreme space weather events. The final output of the Next Step Benchmarks task will be a public document that provides recommendations for improving benchmarks specifically for extreme space weather events.10

To address the benchmark studies and to properly support the National Space Weather program needs, the required space weather data and associated observational platforms on the ground and in space, should be identified. Different types of partnerships will be necessary to support these observations, which should include not only shared launches but also rideshare opportunities and data-sharing agreements. An important example relevant to NSWAP is the recent partnership between NOAA and NASA to use the IMAP launch ESPA ring for the next NOAA L1 monitor. In other cases, uniquely useful measurements are extractable from routine data streams obtained by non-NOAA or NASA satellites and satellite networks. Certain “swarm” measurements (e.g., total electron content [TEC] from Global Navigation Satellite Systems [GNSS], ionospheric and magnetospheric currents from the Iridium satellites) have been transformative for our ability to observe temporal and spatial trends. Moreover, such collaborations need not be restricted to hardware and measurements alone. For example, coordination between various modeling programs would improve space weather forecasting. The Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC), jointly supported by several of the NSWAP agency members, has already carried out validations of some of the most widely used heliophysics models. Although the validation practices and standards of CCMC may differ from those at NOAA SWPC, some normalization would enable R2O progress.

The involvement of different agencies with different standards and agendas is both a challenge and an advantage for realizing the NSWAP vision. Both NASA Heliophysics and NSF Geosciences currently have program directors dedicated to space weather activities who could host regular NSWAP coordination exchanges. The anecdotal successes summarized above serve to emphasize the far greater efficacy that could be achieved through formal close collaboration.

Finding 4.6 The minimum observation requirements and baseline research infrastructure need to be defined by drawing on space weather O2R/R2O activities at NSF and NASA. Ongoing space weather benchmark activities are a step in this direction.

Critical to the advancement of science is access to data through open data policies and standardized data interfaces. Science moves forward through continued testing and re-evaluation of ideas. Without easy access to data, this progression is stymied. A prime example of the advantages of open data was the

___________________

10 A town hall was held in September 2019 to incorporate community feedback as the final report is being prepared (Space Weather Operations, Research and Mitigation Working Group, “Next Step Space Weather Benchmarks Town Hall,” April 23-25, 2019, https://www.sworm.gov/meetings.htm).

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

establishment of GNSS databases in the early 1990s. These databases utilized a standard RINEX (receiver independent exchange) format for their data products. The GNSS database was established for geodetic purposes to monitor the movement of Earth’s plates.

Over time, GNSS has become a prime data source for monitoring the changes in the TEC of the ionosphere and for measuring the total precipitable water vapor. Another example is AMPERE (Iridium), which provides magnetic field measurements. Both GNSS and AMPERE depend on open data sources, including data about spacecraft design and from the spacecraft instruments. New plans for buying commercial data products from the suite of newly launched CubeSats, which provide radio occultation data, are of concern. These data products can provide electron density and water vapor measurements. However, if the science community does not have access to the original data, there will be little chance of data verification or of future data analysis advancements. These issues require close monitoring and definition.

Finding 4.7 The agencies can take advantage of commercial, interagency, and inter-divisional collaborations to make progress toward their space weather goals. To assure that this happens effectively, open data policies and standardized data interfaces need to be established. Inputs from the science community are critical for assessing how useful the commercial data are and assuring that the right data are accessible (and not merely higher-level derived products).

4.4 APPLICATIONS RECOMMENDATIONS

In view of the progress and changes in the situational landscape discussed in this chapter, and in the context of the latest NSWSAP, the committee reached the following recommendations.

Recommendation 4.1: In order to make efficient progress on the high-level goals in the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, NASA, in collaboration with NOAA and the National Science Foundation’s Geosciences and Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorates and their research communities, should develop an implementation roadmap for space-weather science and for capability transfer between research and operations (research-to-operations and operations-to-research). This document should identify and prioritize the science focus areas and the associated essential observables and data-driven space-environmental models that are critical to “significantly advance understanding and enable improved characterization and prediction of space weather” as part of the overall national space weather enterprise as well as for NASA’s internal needs related to the exploration of space.

  • The plan should reflect an assessment of key scientific and observational “capability gaps in the current space weather operational baseline.”
  • This plan should be developed in close consultation with NOAA as a representative of the space-weather user community and other agencies identified in the NSWSAP.
  • This plan should take advantage of reports that already exist in this area, and its formulation can make use of national advisory committees, the Committee on Space Research’s space weather roadmap team, and other advisory entities.
  • This plan, along with an associated budget, should be available as input to the next decadal survey in solar and space physics to further develop how the research programs at the different agencies can best work together to obtain the required space weather measurements and models.
  • The agencies involved should have ongoing activity to guarantee a succession plan for continued acquisition of critical space weather diagnostics.
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×

Recommendation 4.2: NOAA, along with other operational agencies, should develop notional budgets for space weather operations that would include identifying the need for new space weather funding lines required to fulfill the responsibilities added to their existing tasks by the National Space Weather Action Plan. This should be available as input to the next decadal survey.

4.5 REFERENCES

NSF (National Science Foundation). 2016. Investments in Critical Capabilities for Geospace Science 2016 to 2025: A Portfolio Review of the Geospace Section of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Science. Submitted on February 5. https://www.nsf.gov/geo/adgeo/geospace-review/geospace-portfolio-review-final-rpt-2016.pdf.

NASA OIG (Office of the Inspector General). 2019. NASA’s Heliophysics Portfolio. IG-19-018. May 7.

OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). 2015a. National Space Weather Strategy. SWORM Task Force, National Science and Technology Council. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/final nationalspaceweatherstrategy_ 20151028.pdf.

—. 2015b. National Space Weather Action Plan. SWORM Working Group, National Science and Technology Council. https://www.sworm.gov/publications/2015/swap final 20151028.pdf.

—. 2018. Space Weather Phase 1 Benchmarks. SWORM Subcommittee, National Science and Technology Council. https://www.sworm.gov/publications/2018/Space-Weather-Phase-1-Benchmarks-Report.pdf.

—.2019. National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan. SWORM Working Group, National Science and Technology Council. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/National-Space-Weather-Strategy-and-Action-Plan-2019.pdf.

NASA OIG, Office of Audits, Washington, DC. https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-19-018.pdf.

Schrijver, C.J., K. Kauristie, A.D. Aylward, C.M. Denardini, S.E. Gibson, A. Glover, N. Gopalswamy, et al. 2015. Understanding space weather to shield society: A global road map for 2015–2025 commissioned by COSPAR and ILWS. Advances in Space Research 55:2745. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2015.03.023.

Shearer, C., D. Eppler, W. Farrell, J. Gruener, S. Lawrence, N. Pellis, P. Spudis, and R. Zeigler. 2016. “Lunar Human Exploration Strategic Knowledge Gap Special Action Team Review.” Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG). https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/leag-gap-review-sat-2016.pdf.

Spann, J. 2019. “NASA Heliosphysics Space Weather Science and Applications Program: Opportunities and Impact.” NASA Heliophysics Division. https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/images/u59/02%20Jim%20Spann%20Official.pdf.

Vourlidas, A., G.C. Ho, I.J. Cohen, C.M. Korendyke, S. Tun-Beltran, S.P. Plunkett, J. Newmark, et al. 2018. “Using The Deep Space Gateway To Build The Next Generation Heliophysics Research Grid.” LPI Contrib. No. 2063 to the Deep Space Gateway Concept Science Workshop, Vol. 2063. https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/deepspace2018/pdf/3055.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 91
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 92
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 93
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 94
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 95
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 96
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 97
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 98
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 99
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 100
Suggested Citation:"4 Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges for Decadal Survey Applications Goals and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25668.
×
Page 101
Next: 5 Heliophysics Career Enhancements »
Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics: A Midterm Assessment Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $85.00 Buy Ebook | $69.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

The 2013 report Solar and Space Physics; A Science for a Technological Society outlined a program of basic and applied research for the period 2013-2022. This publication describes the most significant scientific discoveries, technical advances, and relevant programmatic changes in solar and space physics since the publication of that decadal survey. Progress Toward Implementation of the 2013 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics assesses the degree to which the programs of the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration address the strategies, goals, and priorities outlined in the 2013 decadal survey, and the progress that has been made in meeting those goals. This report additionally considers steps to enhance career opportunities in solar and space physics and recommends actions that should be undertaken to prepare for the next decadal survey.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!