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Space Weather

Space Weather and Aviation Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation (AIR) produces chemically active radicals in biological tissues that can lead to severe illnesses and cancer. Flight crews and passengers are subject to AIR produced by background galactic cosmic rays (GCR) and solar particle events (SPE).

The FAA has estimated annual exposure to aircrews equals, if not exceeds, the recommended allowable limits for the average nuclear power plant worker. Frequent-flyer business passengers are more likely to be exposed to even higher doses than the aircrew because flight hours are not restricted for passengers. This exposure risk has begun to increase substantially with the explosive growth of transpolar routes used for commercial passenger aviation. The development of commercial space ventures, including the potential for space tourism during the next decade, further increases the need to understand and measure this hazard.

spacewx_araural_disruption300W.jpg ASAP has taken the initiative to develop the first full-physics, global, nowcast capability for calculating radiation dosimetry parameters at commercial airline altitudes. This NASA Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety (NAIRAS) model will provide the FAA and the aviation industry valuable data for developing policies and procedure for modifying aircrew travel schedules to limit radiation exposures. Critical data will also be offered to aid in airline policy or management decisions for flight rerouting during solar storm events. ASAP will also provide NAIRAS model output to the public health community to assist in epidemiological studies to inform these decision makers in government and industry.

Space weather also affects communications and the stability of microelectronic devices. ASAP is addressing this hazard by working with NCAR to develop a prototype global graphic product of Total Electron Count (TEC) data. TEC data are produced by the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB using Global Atmosperic Ionization Model (GAIM) output. The GAIM Model version being run was developed by Utah State University under a DOD Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) grant independent of the ASAP Project. Dr. Arnaud Dumont at NCAR is leading the effort to develop the prototype ASAP graphic for evaluation on the experimental side of the NOAA Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) server. Casey Perry of the NASA DEVELOP Program spearheaded this initiative through a Solutions Network proposal grant from the NASA Applied Sciences Program.

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Curator: Jay Madigan
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