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What Is Space Weather Data?

Space weather data combines the fields of physics and aeronomy, upper planetary atmospheres. The data tracks solar wind and solar event effects on the magnetosphere, the ionosphere, the thermosphere, and more.

The field focuses on the relation of this weather to earth as solar storms can damage electric grids, satellite navigation systems, and more. However, researchers do track this weather further out in space.

Where Does Space Weather Data Come From?

Government programs like the US National Space Weather Program or NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) record most of this data. They also make much of it available to the public.

Meanwhile, there are open-source, public space weather databases. However, due to earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, observing space weather from the ground is very difficult. Thus, only the government can collect and publish most of this data.

What Types of Columns/Attributes Should I Expect When Working with This Data?

Space weather data appears in the form of images or columns of text. Magnetometers, faraday cups, ionograms, neutron monitors, and more present real-time data on electrons and protons per square centimeter or the orbit and velocity of meteoritic fireballs. In short, there are a lot of space weather phenomena to record.

What Is Space Weather Data Used For?

Much of this data is used to make forecasts as space weather storms can damage equipment and impact earth-bound weather. For instance, warning of solar storms can help governments and private companies take steps to mitigate radiation or magnetic damage to spacecraft (enough damage can destroy this equipment). In the same vein, industry leaders can prepare for storms that can damage power grids or human beings in aircraft flying above 26,000 feet. Meteorologists and local governments can also predict and prepare for El Niño and La Niña events, as solar weather can impact their severity.

How Should I Test the Quality of This Data?

Since there are limitations to the amount of data an ordinary citizen can gather from earth, researchers must use data generated and published by governments or research institutions. Thankfully, however, there are many resources available.

Further usage of this data must take place after careful data cleansing and standardization. Afterward, researchers can use the data for their desired purpose.

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

Science Direct: Machine Learning Techniques for Space Weather: Chapter 2 – Data Availability and Forecast Products for Space Weather
European Space Agency: Monitoring space weather

Tangible Examples of Impact

By combining 3D atmospheric chemistry and climate modeling with observed flare data from distant stars, a Northwestern-led team discovered that stellar flares could play an important role in the long-term evolution of a planet’s atmosphere and habitability.

“We’ve found that stellar flares might not preclude the existence of life,” added Daniel Horton, the study’s senior author. “In some cases, flaring doesn’t erode all of the atmospheric ozone. Surface life might still have a fighting chance.”

Northwestern Now: The upside of volatile space weather

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