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Space weather

Space weather dialogue

Sciencewise co-funded project 2013


Space weather is a set of phenomena that are now recognised as a significant natural hazard, with the potential to disrupt many of the technologies that are critical to the functioning of modern societies. It arises when phenomena distant from the Earth (mainly on the Sun) generate adverse environmental conditions (e.g. electromagnetic fields, high-energy particles, hot plasma, changes in thermospheric density and composition) for technologies operating in space, in Earth’s atmosphere and on the surface of our planet.

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Impacts & Value

STFC public dialogue on space weather impacts Cabinet Office strategy and Lords inquiry - January 2016

The dialogue has already led to a series of specific impacts, as follows:

1.    Inclusion in the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee Inquiry into the resilience of electricity systems7, published in March 2015.

2.    Cabinet Office has started the process of formulating a space weather communications plan – and the dialogue report was reported in the first meeting attended by the STFC project manager and OG chair.

3.    Space weather week in Washington – The dialogue report was spoken about at length during the US-UK Space Weather Workshop on power grids and public communications in Washington in February 2015.

4.    STFC has been contacted by a representative of an Australian university who said that the Australian Government were keen to do some similar work and therefore wanted to learn from the UK experience.

5.    Mike Hapgood has had an article published that talked about the project8.

6.    STFC has been invited to submit (and since submitted) an abstract for European Space weather week in November 2015 in Belgium – for the session on space weather communication and dialogue across Europe.

Space weather strategy takes account of public dialogue project – July 2015

Insights from the space weather dialogue recognised in space journal – May 2015

Space weather public dialogue project recognised by House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into the Resilience of the Electricity System – April 2015

Project Status

Case study published  - March 2016

1 page project summary published - March 2016

Evaluation report published - January 2016

Final evaluation of dialogue activities - March 2015

Public dialogue report published - February 2015

What the public said

“Government needs to be the hub that information is fed through to all the services and decides how they should run.”
Wrexham participant, workshop 1
“And it’s not just government and companies – it’s us as individuals and what we can do.”
Reading participant, workshop 1
“Some of the moving imagery was really helpful, some of the explanations about magnetism were good. I have a visual way of understanding things so that was really good.”
Reading participant, workshop 1

Delivered By

STFC is one of the UK’s seven publicly funded Research Councils responsible for supporting, co-ordinating and promoting research, innovation and skills development in seven distinct fields. STFC is commissioning this public dialogue.

RAL Space
RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and is the lead department for space weather.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences.

National Grid
National Grid is an international electricity and gas company and one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world.

Lloyd’s is the world’s specialist insurance market, conducting business in over 200 countries and territories worldwide – and often insuring new, unusual or complex risks.

Dialogue contractor. 3KQ are leaders in the field of facilitation and stakeholder engagement.

Collingwood Environmental Planning
Dialogue contractor. Collingwood Environmental Planning (CEP) is an independent multidisciplinary environmental and sustainability consultancy.

Icaro Consulting
Evaluation contractor. Icaro Consulting is a strategic research consultancy specialising in the planning, development and delivery of sustainability.