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Delivering a Solar Flare Forecast Model that Improves Flare Forecast (Timing and Magnitude) Accuracy by 25%


The Nation’s critical infrastructure and economy are increasingly susceptible to the impacts of space weather. Leadership at the highest levels of government, including DHS, DoD, and the White House, are involved in efforts to prepare and respond to severe space weather outbreaks.  Nearly all major space weather storms are associated with major solar flares.  And yet, the ability to forecast solar flares is currently limited to qualitative assessment of sunspots.  There has been little advance in operational flare forecasting techniques in more than 20 years.  Customers are requesting more accurate flare forecasts with multiple hour lead-times allowing them to plan and adjust their systems and operations to impending space weather impacts.


New observations from NASA sensors such as the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite provide new insight into the internal workings of the sun.  These and other measurements have resulted in a number of new scientific techniques and discoveries that could provide improvement over the current flare forecasting technique.  Moving these research discoveries into operational forecasting tools and models could greatly improve flare forecasts. 


Project Goals:  The goal of this activity would be to develop a model or technique for improving the multi-hour and multi-day forecasts of solar flare eruptions. 


Initial work would be applied towards developing an improved model and/or assessing model performance against observations.  Some of these techniques may require fairly complex computational modeling and data processing.  The performance of a model would need to be established by comparing with current flare forecasting accuracy.  The value and viability of a model would need to be assessed based on performance, reliability, and computational complexity.  These techniques would need to be tested and refined with the goal of running a model in real-time to provide forecasts.  The results of initial research would be the development of a new model or technique and/or the evaluation of several models based on model performance metrics. 


Later work would be required to begin the transition of the selected research model into operations.  This work would involve further testing and validation of the model performance, the development of model outputs and products, and the development of the model itself to improve performance and reliability.


Possible commercial applications would include the use of a flare forecast by a small business to provide tailored products for specific end users such as commercial airlines and emergency managers.  


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:



·         Model development

·         Model performance evaluation and testing

·         Model operational concept development

·         Proof of concept testing

·         Validation and verification of results

·         Feasibility assessment development



·         Model performance statistics

·         Prototype of operational model

·         Implementation feasibility assessment


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  



·         Concept implementation and product development

·         Product expansion and tailored outputs for specific user groups



·         Prototype Solar Flare Forecast model to be evaluated for possible transition to operations.   This should include the prototype software for data ingest, data processing, and the development of intermediate products used for forecasting solar flares.

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