Briefing highlights space weather risks to GPS

Authors


Abstract

[1] Solar storms, which are expected to increase as the Sun nears the most active phase of the solar cycle, can disrupt a variety of technologies on which society relies. Speakers at a 22 June briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C., focused on how space weather can affect the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is used in a wide range of industries, including commercial air travel, agriculture, national security, and emergency response. Rocky Stone, chief technical pilot for United Airlines, noted that GPS allows more aircraft to be in airspace, saves fuel, and helps aircraft move safely on runways. “Improvements in space weather forecasting need to be pursued,” he said. Precision GPS has also “changed the whole nature of farming,” said Ron Hatch, Director of Navigation Systems, NavCom Technology/John Deere. GPS makes it possible for tractors to be driven in the most efficient paths and for fertilizer and water to be applied precisely to the areas that most need them. Space weather-induced degradation of GPS signals can cause significant loss to farms that rely on GPS. Elizabeth Zimmerman, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), described how FEMA relies on GPS for disaster recovery. The agency is developing an operations plan for dealing with space weather, she said.