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Space weather: Effects on Aviation

Recently EASA published two excellent Safety Information Bulletins which are a revision up from May-2012.

SIB 2012-09R1 describes the 11 year solar activity cycles and 4 categories of space weather events and their effects on Aeronautical systems and Humans.

The four categories of events are:

  1. Geomagnetic storms; which can cause geomagnetic pole shifts and general geomagnetic field disturbances. These events can take days and can permanently change.

  2. Solar radiation storms; these are large quantities of charged particles accelerated by processes at or near the sun and cause increased radiation doses to humans. These effects are most intense near the poles.

  3. Solar flare radio blackouts; caused by increased electron densities emitted by the sun as solar flares, potentially disrupting radio reception and transmission in the HF and VHF frequency bands.

  4. Ionispheric storms; these arise from large influxes of solar particles and electromagnetic radiation. There is a strong coupling between the ionosphere and the magnetosphere; consequently both are disturbed concurrently

  5. Galactic cosmic rays; these originate from distant supernova and are most predominant when sun activity is at lower levels. Its effects are most predominant at 60-65000 feet altitude and affect human health as well as the operation of avionics

Effects on Aviation:

  1. People on board; the effects are most predominant near the poles and at high altitudes. This may be mitigated by prudent flight planning avoiding these areas. The SIB provides references guidelines.

  2. Systems and services affected; basically all radio data links and communications may be affected, including HF communications, GNSS, Weather satellites, Communication satellites and any surveillance and navigation systems. The SIB contains a matrix that summarizes these relations.

EASA, this month, published Revision One of SIB 2012-09 (R1), downloadable below:

Download PDF • 638KB

Also a revision level up from SIB 2012-10R1, which describes more detailed effects on Avionics:

Download PDF • 298KB

At the moment the solar activity just passed its lowest point and is expected to increase.

The phenomenon is not new. In the past there have been informative sessions and work shops on the subject. Not surprisingly, most of then were held about ten years ago when solar activity was at its previous low point.

Below in the article I researched and placed informative presentations on the subject for interested readers.

2-Impact of Space Weather on aviation- E
Download • 2.67MB

5- Flight operations research perspectiv
Download • 700KB

6- ATM perspective- K. Ashton
Download PDF • 517KB

7- Navigation Systems- H. Trautenberg
Download PD • 2.42MB

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