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Solar Events

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN 164462, tabled on 8 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how far in advance the UK's weather capabilities can detect an impending solar storm; and what steps he is taking to collaborate with other nations to increase the detection and mitigate the impact of solar storms.

Answered on

16 March 2021

The UK is a world leader in space weather forecasting and the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre provides forecasts and warnings of space weather on a 24/7 basis.

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are responsible for the most severe space weather. Preliminary warnings are issued at least 12 hours in advance for the fastest CMEs. Certainty over the magnitude of an event and its impacts is dependent on critical measurements as the CME passes over monitoring spacecraft positioned 1 million miles from Earth and is provided with approximately 15 to 20 minutes notice. The UK is the largest funder of the European Space Agency “Lagrange” mission, which is due to launch in 2027. This mission will enable better characterisation of CMEs and improve forecasting accuracy of the timing and magnitude of events.

International collaboration is crucial to space weather prediction. The UK’s primary partners are the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Centre and the USAF 557th Weather Wing in the United States, with whom the Met Office maintains 24/7 communications in support of our respective operations. The UK also collaborates closely with many nations in Europe notably Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Germany.