If you are like many people, you scan the newspaper, television, or Internet every morning and check out the latest weather map and forecast to see how it may affect what you plan to do that day. If you depend on satellites to do your business and you want to know how the “weather” in space might affect those satellites, you are not so lucky—at least not yet.
“Space weather” is a relatively new phrase in space physics. It refers broadly to the conditions in space that may affect human activities. Those conditions are changing all the time. Differing types and intensities of solar activity produce different conditions in the solar wind, which in turn impact the conditions in the magnetosphere, ionosphere, and upper atmosphere. Adverse space weather conditions include increased ionospheric scintillation, which disrupts communications and navigation signals, electrical charging of spacecraft surfaces that can produce arcing, and radiation damage from energetic protons and electrons that can damage spacecraft components.