Space Weather: the Austrian Platform
The term "space weather" generally refers to the state of the near-Earth space environment and Earth's upper atmosphere. Space weather is mainly determined by the activity on the Sun and the relevant phenomena are often called solar storms. The interaction between charged particle clouds in the solar wind and the geomagnetic field leads to geomagnetic storms.
Space weather can affect technological systems on the earth's surface during extreme events, in which large clouds of charged particles leave the Sun as plasma. When these clouds reach the Earth, they interact with the geomagnetic field and cause rapid field variations. This is followed by a chain of electromagnetic surface and atmospheric induction processes that induce potentially damaging DC currents in ground electrically conductive networks, such as power supply networks.
These events have only been explored more intensively in the past 30 years. Research shows that solar storms that would have devastating effects on today's technical infrastructure have occurred in the past. The repetition rates of such events, however, are largely unknown. Due to the effects of space weather on ever-increasing air traffic and growing critical infrastructure such as power grids or satellite navigation, the importance of space weather is still underestimated.
In the context of this project, researchers and end users in the field of space weather will be connected to create a national competence group. Possible synergies between the research groups will be promoted, and Austrian stakeholders in the area of critical infrastructure will be identified. The state-of-the-art in this domain, specifically in a national context, will be presented and current research questions will be identified and formulated together with the stakeholders. The decisive factor here is the cooperation between information providers and users in order to determine what content is required. An Austrian Space Weather Platform, which provides an overview of the content and makes it easily accessible, will be created. This platform is not intended to replace existing international “space weather warning tools”, but rather to bundle existing information, the latest research, and information prepared according to national user needs. Furthermore, based on the latest research into extreme events and the needs of national stakeholders, an action plan detailing the national response in the case of an extreme space weather event will be developed. To continue and develop national collaboration after this project, a road map for the future of space weather in Austria will also be developed by the consortium. The multidisciplinarity of the consortium, which is a mix of researchers and stakeholders, is a great strength in this regard.
The national visibility of the topic “space weather”, the objective and well-founded presentation of current space weather research and data, and the establishment of sustainable collaborations and opportunities for future cooperation are the core goals that will be addressed by this project.