i(Space)Weather

13 04 2014

News from the stock exchange is always being discussed by investors. News about the weather is a mainstream conversation. I cannot present stats but I think it’s the most talked about topic, worldwide with quite different motivations.

Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.
Oscar Wilde

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.
P. D. James

Importance …

Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a given location. Human beings have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia, and formally since the nineteenth century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere on a given place and using scientific understanding of atmospheric processes to project how the atmosphere will evolve on that place.

When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large scientific method in most cases fails. One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible.
Albert Einstein

The chaotic nature of the atmosphere, the massive computational power required to solve the equations that describe the atmosphere, errors involved in measuring the initial conditions, and an incomplete understanding of atmospheric processes mean that forecasts become less accurate as the difference in current time and the time for which the forecast is being made (the range of the forecast) increases.

There are a variety of end uses to weather forecasts. Weather warnings are important forecasts because they are used to protect life and property. Forecasts based on temperature and precipitation are important to agriculture, and therefore to traders within commodity markets. Temperature forecasts are used by utility companies to estimate demand over coming days. On an everyday basis, people use weather forecasts to determine what to wear on a given day. Since outdoor activities are severely curtailed by heavy rain, snow and the wind chill, forecasts can be used to plan activities around these events, and to plan ahead and survive them.

Thunderstorms can create strong winds and dangerous lightning strikes that can lead to deaths, power outages, and widespread hail damage. Heavy snow or rain can bring transportation and commerce to a stand-still, as well as cause flooding in low-lying areas. Excessive heat or cold waves can sicken or kill those with inadequate utilities, and droughts can impact water usage and destroy vegetation.

Space weather …

Space weather is becoming a very important aspect of the weather services, and will continue to grow as we gain a better understanding of the physical processes of the sun and their effects here on the Earth as well as in space itself.

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Space weather can have significant effects to humans on Earth as well as in space due to the growing number of satellites in space, power grids on Earth, use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), as well as commuter air travel and space travel. Solar flares, coronal holes, and coronal mass ejections (CME’s) can emit large bursts of radiation, high speed electrons and protons, and other highly energetic particles that are released from the sun, and are sometimes directed to the Earth.

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There are 3 main categories of space weather storms: geomagnetic storms, caused by CME´s and the high speed wind from coronal holes, that can create beautiful auroras, as well as cause problems for electrical systems, satellites, GPS navigation, radio systems (radio blackouts), power line transmissions, cell phones, health of astronauts, people flying at high altitudes, and satellite orbits. For this reason, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) located in Boulder, Colorado issues a variety of space weather forecasts and warnings daily to alert those concerned with these effects.

There is a universal free app called SpaceWeather (by Utah State University, icon name SpaceWx) which tells you what’s going on in space. It should be mentioned that you need some knowledge to understand all the measured parameters shown in the app.

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For example, say that a flare occurs and you want to know its effects at Earth right now. The app uniquely extracts data from real-time, operational systems linking the four major space environment domains (Sun, solar wind, magnetosphere, thermosphere/ionosphere). With a tap of the finger you see a detailed chain of energy events including SDO Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) solar images, the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) solar wind calculations, the forecast of the Dst geomagnetic disturbance at Earth, and even the real-time ionospheric total electron content (TEC).
The app provides the most up-to-date visualization of the entire energy transfer from the Sun to the Earth at your fingertips.

Data comes from participating institutions, including NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, National Solar Observatory, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Space Environment Technologies, SOHO consortium, STEREO mission, NorthWest Research Associates, NASA Community Coordinated Modeling Center, Rice University, Kyoto University World Data Center, Oulu University, Space Environment Corporation, U.S., Geological Survey, Utah State University Space Weather Center, and Virginia Tech University.

Real-time space weather data includes:

  • 60 solar data sets
  • 16 solar wind data sets
  • 23 magnetosphere data sets
  • 53 atmosphere data sets
  • 13 alerts

NOAA …

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), located in Asheville, North Carolina, maintains the world’s largest climate data archive and provides climatological services and data to every sector of the United States economy and to users worldwide. Records in the archive range from paleoclimatology data (collected through the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of the Earth) to centuries-old journals to data less than an hour old.

The Center’s mission is to preserve these data and make them available to the public, business, industry, government, and researchers.

Apps …

The iPhone comes with a built-in app which allows to retrieve actual information from Yahoo about the weather as well as a forecast for configurable locations. Shortened information is also shown in the notification center.

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You will find many apps in Apple’s App Store showing information about the weather which can be installed on both iOS devices, the iPhone and the iPad.

Retrieval of data …

Developers of weather apps can use so-called APIs (Application Programming Interface) which, integrated in the application’s code, retrieves information from weather data providers. Data are based on countless earthbound weather stations as well as data from satellites and airplanes.

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Living Earth …

Living Earth is a universal app (that means, once downloaded it’s available on all your iOS devices) by Radiantlabs, LLC. It comes with a live 3D simulation of our planet with global weather, forecasts and world clock for cities around the world. If you start the app a rotating globe is shown with live sunrise and sunset borders.

Features …

  • live cloud patterns from near real-time satellite cloud data updated every 3 h
    hurricanes and tropical storms
  • live 3D weather maps with temperature (max, min, mean) humidity, wind, and 7 day and 2 h forecasts
  • tropical cyclon push notifications and updates on current storm systems
  • sunrise and sunset borders and times for sunrise and sunset around the world
    snow and ice coverage
  • alarm clock with music playlist
  • home screen temperature icon
  • iCloud city syncing with the Living Earth app for Mac
  • sharing of the actual screen on Facebook, Twitter, and by mail
  • changing the rotation speed and rotation direction by swiping fast/slow or left/right/up/down
  • comprehensive overview about the actual weather for all defined cities

The app was first published in Sep 2010 and got 25 updates until the end of 2013.

See these impressions of the UI …

Summary …

There are many apps retrieving weather data from various providers. In many cases these providers are not mentioned so it’s not easy to assess the quality of shown data.

Related links …

Weather forecasting

National climate data center

Space Weather

World Weather Online APIs

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