Press release

Space weather forecasts to protect vital technologies from solar storms

The UK will become one of a small number of countries to forecast the weather in space.

A £4.6 million investment in this innovative system by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will help protect the technologies our day-to-day lives rely on.

Severe solar flares, space storms and solar wind can disrupt satellites, GPS, power grids and radio communications.

Space weather forecasts, running all day, every day from spring 2014, will allow government and businesses to take swift action to ensure services are maintained.

Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:

The sun is in constant flux, and the possibly damaging impact of this solar activity is growing as people become more reliant on satellite technology.

Space is one of the Eight Great Technologies of the future and I’m pleased that this worthwhile project has received the funding it’s due.

These forecasts will ensure that businesses can plan ahead, keeping us at the forefront of the global race.

The £4.6 million investment, spread over the next 3 years, will allow the Met Office to build on its partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service, sharing knowledge and expertise in space weather forecasting.

Andrew Richards, a Risk and Resilience Analyst for National Grid, said:

A round the clock UK forecasting service for space weather is essential as part of National Grid’s procedures for running the electricity transmission network securely and safely. It is great news for National Grid that the Met Office has secured funding for its space weather forecasting operations.

Mark Gibbs, Head of Space Weather at the Met Office, said:

Space weather is a relatively immature science but understanding is growing rapidly. The Met Office is working with NOAA Space Weather Prediction Centre in the US in a collaboration which aims to enable both organisations to accelerate the development of improved space weather models and prediction systems to make more effective use of space weather data.

This investment will enable the Met Office to complete the space weather forecasting capability that it has been developing over the past 2 years and begin delivering forecasts, warnings and alerts to key sectors to minimise the impact to the technology based services we all rely on.

The Met Office is developing the forecasts in collaboration with a range of UK partners such as the British Geological Survey, Bath University and RAL Space as well as international partners such as the US NOAA Space Weather Prediction Centre.

Francis Maude, Minster for the Cabinet Office, said:

This government is investing to ensure this innovative and nationally-important service is provided round the clock by the Met Office space weather prediction centre. The Cabinet Office is working with the Met Office to increase the UK’s ability to respond to a severe space weather event and this service will be a vital part of those efforts.

Notes to editors

  1. For further information, images and video content please contact the Met Office Press Office 01392 886655 or email pressoffice@metoffice.gov.uk

  2. The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service, providing 24x7 world-renowned scientific excellence in weather, climate and environmental forecasts and severe weather warnings for the protection of life and property.

  3. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.