African Space Weather Workshop

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

We seek funding to support an African Space Weather Workshop aimed at developing an international team to enhance capacity in space weather monitoring in low income countries. The proposal seeks to utilise the world-leading capability of the UK in the field of space weather monitoring to investigate and address a specific issue impacting on countries on the DAC list.
Space weather is a term used to describe the how solar-driven variations in the Earth's magnetosphere-ionosphere system can impact modern technology and thus human activity. To date space weather has primarily been studied over the polar regions. However, new emerging economies necessitates the elucidation of space weather in the equatorial regions. The most serious space weather threat to modern technological infrastructure is posed by geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) at the Earth's surface. GIC are driven by solar-wind/magnetosphere interactions which driven varying electric and magnetic field in space which again induce currents on the ground. Particularly powerful solar storms have resulted in power and communication failure. GIC can also result in currents being induced in oil and gas pipelines, leading to their degradation, of particular concern to oil-producing nations like Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Further, changes in space weather will affect radio communication, as varying ionospheric conditions result in scintillation of radio signals. This can result in GPS and HF radio signals being absorbed, and significant GPS position and timing error. A particular challenge in the equatorial regions are high-density equatorial plasma bubbles which may span the horizon during severe space weather events. Unique to equatorial region there is an ionospheric current system called the equatorial electrojet which may amplify space weather effects. Disruption of radio communication will adversely affect both everyday life, commerce and disaster relief in equatorial regions.
The University of Leicester are world-leading experts in space weather monitoring, using both ground-based and space-based instruments to probe space weather in the polar regions. The research they produce is of an international excellent standard. In this proposal we aim to utilise the University of Leicester's expertise in this area to bring together an international team of scientists and engineers for a one week African Space Weather Workshop at the University of Leicester. The aim of the workshop is to form an international team focussed on increasing capacity for space weather monitoring, instrumentation, education and research in Africa. The workshop will enable international networking, communication and knowledge exchange. The workshop will identify the key challenges associated with African Space Weather Monitoring and develop a road-map for further collaborations. The workshop will discuss how adverse space weather affects the African equatorial region, funding requirements, instrument development and deployment, and the steps needed mitigate serious space weather situation over the African equatorial region. There will be a strong focus on identifying the training and education needs of scientists and engineers in the physics and engineering requirements associated with space weather monitoring. This could involve planning and seeking funding for joint PhD projects between African and UK universities, academic exchanges, lecture tours of African and UK scientists, identifying instrument requirements associated with the monitoring of space weather, and engaging with local populations in building and deploying such instruments. There will also plans for talks and activities to engage local schools and the general population in order to engage and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Planned Impact

This proposal is orientated towards monitoring, educating and researching adverse space weather conditions in the African equatorial region. With the emerging economies of this region there is the potential to impact a large number of people to a significant degree.

Adverse space weather conditions have been known to affect communication, power supply, gas and oil pipelines. Variations in space weather will result in changes in the Earth's ionosphere, leading to scintillation of radio signals affecting global communication and GPS systems. The most serious space weather threat to modern technological infrastructure is posed by geomagnetically induce currents (GIC). Particularly powerful solar storms have resulted in power and communication failure, with the potential to affect both everyday life, medical emergencies and the disaster relief. GIC can also result in currents being induced in oil and gas pipelines, leading to their degradation, of particular concern to oil-producing nations like Sierra Leone and Nigeria. There is some evidence that space weather effects may be more adverse in the equatorial region due to the existence of the equatorial electrojet current system but to date little knowledge has been collected and analysed in a systematic way to elucidate the scale and effect of African Space Weather.

The African Space Weather Workshop aims to rectify this by initiating a unique collaboration between UK and African scientists and engineers aimed at developing an international in monitoring space weather and its affects on the African equatorial region. The workshop aims to identify key players already involved in space weather research, and develop these collaborations further. Furthering the understanding of space weather will facilitate a training and educational program stretching from secondary schools to post-graduate levels and beyond. The aim of the workshop will be to develop a road-map to increase capacity for space weather monitoring in low income countries. Specific impacts will be:

1) Share information and increase knowledge of the effect of space weather in the equatorial region. To our knowledge, this will be first time an international team has specifically focussed on African Space Weather. Knowledge gained has the potential to affect many thousands of people if we can increase our understanding of how adverse space weather affects communication, power supplies and oil and gas pipelines and start to develop plans to mitigate against these affects.
2) The UK already has world-leading expertise in space weather monitoring. This workshop would positively impact low income countries by fostering international collaborations and knowledge exchange between UK and African scientists and engineers.
3) This proposal would ensure that key stakeholders in Africa are actively involved in developing a road-map for African space weather monitoring. Scientists and engineers from DAC-list countries would identify key issues associated with space weather monitoring, in particular identifying training, education, funding and instrument needs. The road-map developed at the workshop would contain a detailed plan for further action.
4) The African Space Weather Workshop have already gained support from the University of **** in Nigerian and the Minister of Education, Science and Technology in Sierra Leone. Such key stakeholder involvement clearly signals the possibility for a successful African Space Weather Workshop and for further partnerships and collaborations.

Publications

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Description The funds for this work supported an exploratory workshop held in Leicester on the requirements for and the technological and societal need for a space weather network in equatorial Africa. By involving contributors from countries in this region, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone, we were able to gain insight into the needs for such a network. It was clear that the overwhelming requirement was for training and upskilling in technologies associated with radio based systems, including the direct impact of Space Weather on radio (communication and navigational) systems. The use of satellite technology for a number of societal purposes, including communications, mapping, agricultural land use, is paramount in these areas, and the impact of space weather on the trans-ionospheric propagation of the satellite signals is a problem which needs mitigation. Potential for disruption during other disaster relief activity is also a concern.
Exploitation Route The main area would be the continued work to develop the space weather system for training purposes. Thsi could be done through a sereis of collaborative activities where possible, involving governments and non-governmental agencies.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Healthcare,Other