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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2014
DOI:10.5062/F46T0JNC

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Science and Technology Resources on the Internet

Space Weather: Selected Resources

Gene R. Major
Program Manager
Cadence Group
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Library
Greenbelt, Maryland
Eugene.R.Major@nasa.gov

Introduction

"The term 'space weather' refers to the variable conditions on the Sun, throughout space, and in the Earth's magnetic field and upper atmosphere that can influence the performance of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and endanger human life or health" (National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan 2010, p. 1).

Storms on Earth, such as hurricanes, can have devastating consequences for our planet's inhabitants. But a potentially more catastrophic "storm" can come from our own Sun. The Sun, while providing life-giving warmth and light, can also unleash violent geomagnetic storms. Far from placid and serene, the Sun is a huge thermonuclear furnace, with twisting magnetic fields, incredibly hot gases (called plasmas), and violent disturbances on its surface. Solar storms often manifest themselves on the Sun's surface as areas of magnetic disturbances we know as sunspots. These regions can erupt into solar flares and even more violent Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), which can hurl energetic particles towards the Earth. These particles, when striking the Earth's upper atmosphere, can cause beautiful and brilliant auroras, but in extreme cases can also cause widespread disruption of electrical activity on Earth. These solar "storms" or space weather, have been responsible for blackouts, communication loss, satellite disruption, and GPS or navigation degradation. Space weather can affect humans in space, airline passengers and crew, oil pipelines, and the electrical grid. Massive CMEs in the past have caused electrical disruptions, such as the Quebec blackout of 1989. In 1859, the largest CME ever recorded caused widespread disruption of the fledgling global telegraph system. A recurrence of a similar solar storm today could cause widespread damage to power grids and communications (Odenwald and Green 2008). The science of space weather has even found its way into the daily news stream: an article, "When Space Weather Attacks," appeared in the July 13, 2013, Washington Post, describing the potential hazards and what scientists, policy makers, and even insurance companies are doing to prepare for a catastrophic solar event. Spacecraft operated by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and international agencies are now monitoring the Sun in all wavelengths of the spectrum, and much of this data is freely available to the public. These observations help researchers develop models that may be able to forecast the next space weather event.

Scope

The relatively new discipline of space weather intersects a number of other disciplines including space science, atmospheric science, solar physics (or heliophysics), and interplanetary science. This webliography was compiled to assist librarians, students, researchers, and general users as to the best resources for learning about the new discipline of space weather. The list is not comprehensive, but does provide resources that contain valuable information on the Sun, solar flares, CMEs, and the solar-terrestrial environment. Observations and data from solar-monitoring spacecraft are freely available. These include spectacular images and videos of the dynamic Sun, such as flares, prominences, and sunspots. The webliography provides information on the impacts of space weather on human activities, solar data and images, educational resources, auroras, and government policies and reports.

Space weather data and information is mostly available from government agencies. Web sites were selected for ease of use for non-scientists, accuracy, persistence, access to images and videos, and emphasis on space weather impacts on infrastructure. Since NASA and NOAA spacecraft collect most of the space weather data, these government (and government-affiliated) web sites were examined for the most recent and frequently updated information.

A list of suggested readings on space weather are included at the end of the webliography.

Space Weather Impacts On Humans and Infrastructure

Space weather and solar storms have an immediate impact on humans and infrastructure. These resources describe the effects of past solar storms on humans and current efforts to prepare for and understand what the effects would be, should a major solar event directly strike the Earth. The great solar storm of 1859 provided evidence of how solar storms can directly affect human infrastructure.

The Great Solar Storm of 1859
http://www.solarstorms.org/SS1859.html
This web site chronicles first-hand accounts of the Great Solar Storm of 1859. Also known as the "Carrington Event," the Great Solar Storm was a massive geomagnetic storm resulting from a solar outburst observed by astronomer Richard Carrington between August 28 and September 2, 1859. Although not known to science at the time, this event was a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) aimed right at the Earth. Intense auroras, even in the southern hemisphere, were observed. The storm had such an effect on the population that numerous historical first-hand accounts of the "Great Auroral Event" were recorded in newspapers, many of which are included in this web site. For further reading, a special issue of Advances in Space Research in 2006 was devoted to a reanalysis of this historical and significant solar event (Robert, Clauer and Siscoe, 2006).
 
Space Weather Human Impacts
http://www.solarstorms.org/
Solarstorms.org is one of the best sites for learning about the impacts of solar storms on human activities and infrastructure. Here you will learn how solar storms affect the health of astronauts, airline pilots, and flight crews. The site also explains how solar storms can cause blackouts, impact oil and gas pipelines, and even disrupt water utilities. Solar storms can also impact everyday technology such as cell phones, GPS devices, satellites, and communications. A subsection of the solarstorms.org web site (http://www.solarstorms.org/SRefStorms.html) contains a searchable link to an archive of anecdotes and first-hand accounts of solar events throughout history and their impact on society.
 
Solar Flare Theory Educational Web Pages
http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/
This web site from the Solar Physics Laboratory, Heliophysics Science Division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, has information about solar flares and their potential impact on human activities. There is information about satellite shielding, geomagnetic storms and their impact on power systems, space weather, solar X-rays, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).
 
Effects of Space Weather on Real-Time Technology
http://www.noaa.gov/features/economic_0708/spaceweather.html
This web site contains data and information on how NOAA is monitoring the effects of space weather on real-time technologies, such as power grids, GPS signals, civilian and military communications, and impacts on human technologies.
 
Space Weather and Space Radiation Storm Scales
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/
Want to know what all those scales mean in classifying solar storms the way weather forecasters classify hurricanes? The NOAA Space Weather Scale for Geomagnetic Storms ranges from G1 (minor) to G5 (extreme). The site also describes the NOAA Space Weather Scale for Solar Radiation Storms (S1 to S5) and for Radio Blackouts (R1 to R5). The scales were devised to communicate to the general public the current and future space weather conditions and their possible effects on people and systems.
 
Extreme Space Weather: Impacts on Engineered Systems and Infrastructure
http://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/space-weather-full-report
In the UK, the Royal Academy of Engineering issued a report and recommendations on Extreme Space Weather: Impacts on Engineered Systems and Infrastructure. The report assesses the vulnerability of the UK infrastructure to extreme solar events and the steps needed to mitigate the impacts. The report examines the background research on solar weather, assesses the electrical grid, satellites, aircraft passenger and crew safety, avionic technologies, GPS, and communications.
 
Space Weather: Its impact on Earth and Implications for Business by Lloyds
http://www.lloyds.com/~/media/lloyds/reports/360/360 space weather/7311_lloyds_360_space weather_03.pdf
Commercial industries are also concerned about the impact of space weather events on the Earth's infrastructure. Lloyd's of London released a risk insight briefing on Space Weather: It's Impact on Earth and Implications for Business. The report addresses business concerns that extreme space weather events can have on technological infrastructure and human activities. The report encourages businesses to examine their exposure to space weather events and plan accordingly.
 
Space Weather Precautions
http://www.ready.gov/space-weather
Ready.gov provides planning and information about the potential impact of natural and man-made disasters. The section on space weather emphasizes the potential damage to critical infrastructure that can be caused by an extreme solar event. The site provides information about space weather and what to do before, during, and after an event, such as a major power blackout. The site describes how to build an emergency kit and a family connection plan in the event of a massive electrical and communications blackout.
 
Space Weather Impacts from the World Meteorological Organization WMO)
http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/sat/spaceweather-intro_en.php
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)'s web site on space weather impacts highlights the WMO's involvement in space weather policy and observations, including observational requirements and guidelines for space weather observations. The web site provides a searchable Space Weather Product Portal, with links to many international providers of space weather data.
 

Space Weather Data and Images

NASA and international space agencies have launched an array of spacecraft to monitor the sun's activity and use that data to compile predictive models that are being used to forecast major solar events. All of the data is freely available to anyone and many of these sites not only include information behind the science, but also educational materials for students and teachers. Many of NASA's ongoing solar monitoring programs, such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), have provided spectacular images and videos, in many different wavelengths, of our dynamic and sometimes violent sun.

NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
{http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/}
The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) contains real-time and near-real time forecasts of solar activity, geomagnetic storms, and blackouts. The site also has a link to space weather education and outreach resources, as well as the latest solar images and model results. Users can sign-up for space weather alerts, warnings, watches, and forecasts.
 
Solar Science at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)
http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/
The Solar Science web site from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center has information about the Sun and solar activity. The site has links to current forecasts of the solar cycle and sunspot predictions, as well as links to current publications on solar research. The site also has links to various pages of information and data, including solar structure, solar features, the sun in action (including solar flare and CME videos), links to researchers at MSFC and their papers, as well as ongoing and past solar projects (both ground and space-based).
 
Space Weather Media Viewer
http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/spaceweather/#
NASA's Space Weather Media Viewer web site presents incredible views of the sun and solar activity taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and other solar-viewing spacecraft. There is a huge array of images and videos available of the sun in all wavelengths, data on the solar wind, and auroral activity observed from ground stations and NOAA satellites.
 
NASA Space Weather App
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nasa-space-weather/id422621403?mt=8
Free space weather app from NASA that provides access to space environment information from the sun to the earth, and shows latest images and information from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observer (SDO) and other spacecraft. The app is also available for Android from the Google Play Store, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.nasa.gsfc.iswa.NASASpaceWeather&hl=en
 
Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/
This is NASA's main web site for the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a spacecraft launched in 2010 to monitor the Sun. The site features the latest spectacular images and videos of the sun from SDO, latest press releases, and information about SDO and heliophysics in general.
 
SOHO: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/spaceweather/
The NASA SOHO space weather page has data on solar storms from many space-based and ground-based observatories. The site also includes real-time views of the sun from SOHO in different wavelengths, space weather data, classroom activities, and an educational video clip on "What is Space Weather?"
 
STEREO: 3-D View of the Sun and Heliosphere
http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
This is the home page of NASA's Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO). STEREO consists of two spacecraft that monitor solar activity from two different viewpoints. This site is filled with information and data about STEREO, with galleries of images and videos of the latest observations. The STEREO web site also provides information on the impacts of space weather, the solar cycle, solar storms, and aurora.
 
TRACE: Transition Region And Coronal Explorer
http://trace.lmsal.com/
The Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) was a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission to image the solar corona and transition region at high resolution. TRACE was launched from a Pegasus launch vehicle and provided joint observations of the sun with the SOHO spacecraft (which ended in June 2010). The web site, managed by the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Labs (LMSAL), contains TRACE images, videos, data, and results from the mission.
 
The Van Allen Probes
http://vanallenprobes.jhuapl.edu/
The two Van Allen Probes were launched in August 2012 and have been taking measurements of the Earth's radiation belt environment, where space weather activity occurs and where many spacecraft operate. The site contains data and information including educational and classroom materials for understanding space weather. The Van Allen Probes are part of NASA's Living With A Star program.
 
Solar Images
http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/images/
This NASA web site features the latest images from SDO and other solar-observing space missions. The site has solar images in a variety of wavelengths and links to space-based and ground-based solar imagery.
 
European Space Weather Portal
http://www.spaceweather.eu/
The European Space Weather Portal (ESWeP) provides links to space weather data and models. There is also a section related to space weather outreach and educational activities.
 
Integrated Space Weather Analysis System (iSWA)
http://iswa.gsfc.nasa.gov/iswa/iSWA.html
The iSWA is a flexible web-based system for NASA-relevant space weather information that combines forecasts based on space weather models with current observations. The site contains links to resources and tutorials on how to use the system.
 

Aurora Data and Images

One of the most spectacular manifestations of space weather on the earth is the aurora. The section on auroras (or Northern Lights) has links to spectacular image galleries, current images, and data on geomagnetic storms, as well as background information on the causes of auroras and their place in the sun-earth environment.

Aurora Borealis Gallery
http://borealis2000.com/
The Aurora Borealis Photo Gallery contains spectacular images of the aurora borealis from amateur and professional observers, with links to many sites with high-resolution photographs.
 
Exploratorium: Auroras
http://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/auroras/
The University of California's Exploratorium aurora page contains a self-guided tour about auroras and a collection of links to sites on auroras, the Sun, and the earth's magnetosphere. There is also a section on ideas for classroom use and lessons.
 
The Aurora Page
http://www.geo.mtu.edu/weather/aurora/
The Michigan Technical University's aurora page contains spectacular images and videos of the aurora borealis provided by observers from around the world. The site has an extensive selection of web sites and resources for aurora research and data.
 
Real Time Aurora Forecast
http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/
This site from Finland provides information, photos, videos, and data for aurora chasers and anyone interested in the northern lights. The site has daily and 3-day aurora forecasts based on NASA and NOAA data, and real-time solar wind, and geomagnetic data solar from NASA's Atmospheric Composition Explorer (ACE). The site has many links to aurora photos, videos, aurora sighting logs, and other information about auroras.
 
Aurora Forecasts
http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
The Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks provides real-time aurora forecasts and links to photos, alerts, and information about viewing auroras.
 

News and Information

There are a handful of excellent resources that provide up-to-the minute solar storm news and information, images, near-real-time videos, and forecasts of solar activity.

spaceweather.com: News and Information about the Sun-Earth environment
http://spaceweather.com/
This site provides links to real-time space weather images, auroras, geomagnetic forecasts, sunspot numbers, and other phenomena such as meteor and fireball sightings. Sponsored by the Space Science Laboratory at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, this space weather page provides a brief report on current space weather conditions, a space weather forecast for the next 24 hours, solar flare probabilities, and a brief discussion of what is meant by space weather.
 
Facebook: NOAA SWPC
https://www.facebook.com/NWSSWPC
The Facebook page for the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (http://www.spaceweather.gov) provides current data and information on space weather events, such as ongoing solar activity and geomagnetic storm forecasts.
 
Living With A Star Program
http://lws.gsfc.nasa.gov/
NASA's Living With A Star (LWAS) Program provides information on understanding how the sun can affect humanity on Earth and in space. The site has the latest information on solar weather research using NASA spacecraft data and mission status of LWAS projects.
 
Timeline of Solar-Terrestrial Physics
http://space.engin.umich.edu/solar-terrestrial-luminaries/timeline.html
This engaging site provides a timeline of "the scientists and their ideas that led us to our present understanding of Space Weather." Links are included to biographies of scientists who have had an impact on our understanding of space weather.
 

Space Weather Education

Many of the web sites listed in this webliography have an educational component to them. A few resources are geared specifically towards teachers and students, like the NSTA's web site on space weather and NOAA's space weather education portal, as well as the sites listed below.

Space Weather Action Center
http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/swac/
NASA's Sun-Earth Day web site has a number of teacher and student resources to engage in space weather activities. The Space Weather Action Center (SWAC) uses actual NASA solar data and observations to learn about the Sun and space weather.
 
NOAA Space Weather Education
http://www.education.noaa.gov/Weather_and_Atmosphere/Space_Weather.html
NOAA collects a vast amount of space weather and related solar data and information. This site provides educational resources, background information, data, multimedia resources, and lessons/activities, primarily at the middle and high school level.
 
Space Weather Center from the Space Science Institute
http://www.spaceweathercenter.org/index.html
The Space Science Institute (SSI), sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA's Living With A Star (LWS) Program, integrates scientific research with education and public outreach. The web site links to information about solar plasmas, the sun, the earth's magnetic shield and aurora, and solar storms. The site includes many interactive games and activities to emphasize learning about solar weather and how it affects the earth.
 
The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere
http://www.phy6.org/Education/Intro.html
This educational site explores magnetic substorms and storms: disturbances agitating the Earth's magnetic field, triggered by the Sun and the solar wind. The three sections cover substorms, magnetic storms, and space weather. All files are non-mathematical and most have Spanish translations.
 
Space Weather Today
http://www.windows2universe.org/space_weather/space_weather.html
This is the space weather section of the Windows to the Universe web site from the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The web site has several sections to explore including Space Weather Today, which provides current views of the Sun and the aurora and information about current solar and space weather conditions, the Physics of Space Weather, student and teacher activities, and modeling space weather. Especially noteworthy is the site's informative tutorial, "Basic Facts about Space Weather."
 
Space Weather Research, Education and Development Initiative (SW REDI)
http://ccmc.gsfc.nasa.gov/support/SWREDI/swredi.php
The goals of the SW REDI are to promote space environment awareness as an important part of education, facilitate the establishment of space weather programs at universities, and provide undergraduate student internship opportunities. The site contains education materials relating to two SW REDI boot camps and information on student internships.
 
Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CMCC)
http://ccmc.gsfc.nasa.gov/
The Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CMCC) at is a multi-agency partnership to enable, support and perform the research and development for next-generation space science and space weather models.
 

Government Programs, Policy Sites, and Reports

Several government agencies around the world are deeply concerned about the potential hazardous impacts of a severe solar event. The National Space Weather Program and the White House special report on space weather observing systems are examples.

National Space Weather Program
{http://www.spaceweathercenter.org/swop/NSWP/1.html}
The web site for the National Space Weather Program (NWSP), an interagency initiative for the improvement of space weather services, contains information and links to numerous agency space weather-related programs and space weather policy documents, including the latest (2010) version of the NSWP Strategic Plan.
 
White House Report on Space Weather Observing Systems (2013)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/spaceweather_2013_report.pdf
This 2013 report, "Space Weather Observing Systems: Current Capabilities and Requirements for the Next Decade," was prepared by the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, the National Space Weather Program Council, and the Joint Action Group for Space Environmental Gap Analysis, in response to a request from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House. The report describes the study process, requirements and relevance, and assessment of current and planned space weather observing systems.
 
Severe Space Weather Events Workshop
http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/lowres-Severe-Space-Weather-FINAL.pdf
In 2008, the National Research Council conducted a workshop, with representatives from across the Federal agencies, on "Severe Space Weather Events - Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts." This report covers background research on space weather and presents findings that address the needs of the Federal government to assess and respond to the nation's vulnerability to space weather.
 
Space Weather: Report of the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction
http://www.sdr.gov/docs/185820_Space_FINAL.pdf
This report of the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction is part of the government's "Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction," a ten-year strategy that will enhance community resilience to disasters. The Space Weather section addresses the impact of space weather events on the nation and focuses on six grand challenges, such as providing hazard and disaster information and developing hazard mitigation and strategies.
 

Suggested References

Freeman, John W. 2001. Storms in Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Knipp, Delores. 2011. Understanding Space Weather and the Physics Behind It. McGraw-Hill.

Moldwin, Mark. 2008. An Introduction to Space Weather. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan, 2010. 2010. Washington, D.C. [Internet]. Available from: {http://web.archive.org/web/20150829204202/http://www.ofcm.gov/nswp-sp/2010/NSWP%20StratPlan%20for%20web.pdf}

Odenwald, Sten F. and Green, James L. 2008. Bracing the satellite infrastructure for a solar superstorm. Scientific American. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bracing-for-a-solar-superstorm/

Robert Clauer, C. and Siscoe, George. 2006. The great historical geomagnetic storm of 1859: a modern look. Advances in Space Research 38(2): 117-18. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2006.09.001

Schrijver, Carolus J., and Siscoe, George L., eds. 2011. Heliophysics I: Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos. Cambridge University Press.

________. 2012a. Heliophysics II: Space Storms and Radiation: Causes and Effects. Cambridge University Press.

________. 2012b. Heliophysics III: Evolving Solar Activity and the Climates of Space and Earth. Cambridge University Press.

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