Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

New scales help public, technicians understand space weather



The Space Weather Scales of the US. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were recently developed by NOAA's Space Environment Center (SEC) to improve understanding of space weather events among technical operators and the general public alike. The scales (see tables) serve as a sort of Richter scale that correlates space weather events with their likely effects on electric power, satellites, and other systems. To many who view space weather as an obscure field, the NOAA Space Weather Scales will convey useful information and perhaps pique new scientific interest.

The SEC has forecasted the space environment for more than 35 years, alerting users to existing conditions between the Sun and Earth. Demand for these services has grown as technology susceptible to space weather damage has increased in use. Satellites, for example—which were once rare and only government-owned—are now numerous, and many are commercially owned. Transmissions to and from those satellites now carry weather information and military surveillance, television and other communications signals, credit card and pager information, navigation data, and cell phone conversations.