Australian Weather Calendar


Captions and picture bylines below.
Emily Lindsay records sunspots.
Picture: SYDNEY STEWARD
Potential space weather impacts.
Concept: BELL LABORATORIES

January: Monitoring the impacts of space weather

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LEARMONTH Solar Observatory, Western Australia: Every morning a solar analyst sketches sunspots viewed on the visible surface of the sun using a white-light projection from a solar telescope. This tradition was started by Galileo in 1612. The telescope is also used to observe solar flares, erupting filaments and prominences, and other significant solar activity that can cause geomagnetic storms and spectacular auroras on earth.

Solar activity can disrupt High Frequency radio and geomagnetic mineral surveys, hamper satellite and aviation operations, seriously damage power grids and increase pipeline corrosion. Global insurance impacts followed incidents such as the 1997 failure of a communications satellite and the 1989 Quebec power-grid failure (damages about Canadian $2 billion).

The Ionospheric Prediction Service, the space weather branch of the Bureau of Meteorology, conducts ground and satellite monitoring of solar activity. Its regional warnings of solar disturbances particularly benefit radio communications and radar operation. For instance, operators of High Frequency networks can change frequencies to maintain services. The Ionospheric Prediction Service is upgrading sensors and services for the solar activity peak expected in 2012-13.