Astrophysicists from Trinity College Dublin are among a group of leading scientists awarded €2.5 million by the European Commission to study the origins of solar storms and build a highly accurate solar storm forecasting service for Europe. This service, called FLARECAST, launches today.
The Flare Likelihood and Region Eruption Forecasting (FLARECAST) consortium also comprises teams based at the Academy of Athens in Greece, the Universita degli Studi di Genova and Consiglio Nazionale delle Recerche in Italy, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Universite Paris-Sud in France, the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz in Switzerland, and the Met Office in the UK.
Solar storms are huge explosions of hot gas from the Sun that, when they impact the Earth, can damage satellite electronics, interrupt radio communications and navigation systems, and even cause instability in electrical power distribution systems.
FLARECAST project scientist, Dr Shaun Bloomfield, who is based at Trinity, said: “The project brings together European expertise in fundamental solar physics, artificial intelligence and neural networks, and state-of-the-art data-mining techniques to characterize the sources of solar storms – sunspots – and to upgrade flare forecasting to unprecedented levels of precision.”
Associate Professor in Physics in Trinity's School of Physics, and fellow FLARECAST scientist, Dr Peter Gallagher, added: “The project, which will also use state-of-the-art image-processing techniques, will provide a highly accurate, near real-time flare-forecasting service, which is the first of its kind in the world.”
The FLARECAST service will give, for end-users, the ability to choose from a range of flare-forecasting techniques and to fuse single techniques or combinations of techniques with selected artificial intelligence algorithms to improve the skill scores of solar flare prediction.
An integral part of the project is exploratory research that will push the envelope of current knowledge and even the development of new and promising forecasting techniques. As such, FLARECAST will form the basis of the first quantitative, physically motivated and autonomous active region and flare forecasting system, accessible to European and international space weather researchers.
Project coordinator, Dr Manolis Georgoulis, who is based at the Academy of Athens, said: “We are delighted to launch the first space weather project funded under Horizon 2020. The project will bring together leading European solar physicists and space weather forecasters to deliver a system that automatically – and precisely – forecasts when solar storms will occur, and how large they are likely to be.”