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Diplomacy in Action

Space Weather and a Fragile World


Remarks
Dr. Paul Kintner
Washington, DC
October 27, 2009


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Andrew Reynolds: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department for those who are here from the outside, and we welcome you particularly. And the devotees from the State Department itself, USAID, who come as continuing participants in our Jefferson Science Fellows Lecture Series. Come in, please. I am very glad to see you. This is our second lecture of the season. My name is Andrew Reynolds, I am the deputy to our Science and Technology Adviser Nina Fedoroff, who is on travel and wishes you well. And to remind you that we co-host these lectures with the Oceans Environment Science and Technology Bureau of the State Department as well, we welcome members of the OES Bureau here today to hear their associate and colleague, Paul Kintner in his lecture.

Let me, just for the outsiders who don’t know, mention a few words about the Jefferson Program. This is a national competition program which brings tenured professors from U.S. universities to the State Department and to USAID for a year of an embedded assignment. And by agreement with the universities, we ask that these fellows may be available to us as consultants for as many as five years and hopefully even longer, indefinite periods. Because as we in the State Department USAID continue to build more scientific and engineering capacity into our modern foreign policy and development policies, we need our specialists, our academics, our tenured professors to help do that. And not only to bring their expertise directly to the office in which they are assigned, but also through their networks, their global networks, to expand our horizons and possibly utilize their good offices in those networks. And finally I also say to the Jeffersons, remember you can be Ambassadors for Science on your campuses as well when you return because we are looking for the young people, the next generation, to bring their science and engineering toolsets to the force of U.S. foreign policy and development policy.

We have these as monthly lectures. The topics continue to evolve, but we will have next month, November, a discussion of renewable energy, in December on cook stoves and black carbon, which are current issues, naturally, looking into Copenhagen. But this morning, I am pleased to introduce to you Paul Kintner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell. And Dr. Kintner is a special individual because he has been not only working in his field as an academic and a researcher, but he has been working out in the hinterland developing GPS receivers, for example, located in Brazil, China, and Eritrea, just to mention a few. Dr. Kintner comes with a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Minnesota as I recall. And he is serving in the Office of Space and Advanced Technology of the OES Bureau, a perfect situation for his expertise.

Just to move and give you a sense of his thinking, when he worked through the application process with the National Academy of Sciences that actually oversees the competition for the State Department and helps us organize the finalists and the interviews, he wrote, “Science does not necessarily lead to good policy, but policy not informed by science can lead to disaster.” And I think that is a seminal framing point. He also pointed out that he felt extreme space weather is as great a threat to our economy as anything one can imagine and possibly ten times as threatening as Katrina was to our infrastructure. This morning I just asked him, if I may borrow that phraseology, he said, “Actually that is conservative, it may be 100 times more threatening when you think of the ubiquity of a solar event and its effect on the total infrastructure that we are concerned about.”

So in his role here at State Department for the year and hopefully, subsequently as an alumnus, we would -- he would like to see the State Department raising awareness in general to create an architecture that units the fragmented space weather programs across the government into a single entity that can help mitigate the effects of a solar disaster. And I think that title captures it for you; I hope you enjoy the lecture. We normally ask our lecturer to speak for 25 to 30 minutes and then open the floor for questions and answers and discussion. So without further adieu, Paul please take the podium.

[applause]

Dr. Paul Kintner: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, fellow Jefferson Fellows, and diplomats, welcome. Thank you for coming. I would like to start off with a short story. If I use the expression “space weather” to a scientist that is not in the field, I frequently get a blank stare as if I have said an oxymoron. How can space possibly have weather? It is empty. Well, space is not empty. If nothing else, it is filled with sunlight, both in the ultraviolet and x-rays and in the radio spectrum. And it also has a wind that comes from the sun, and that wind frequently has storms in it. So today I am going to walk you through some of these events. I am going to show you some examples, and then I am going to talk about the big one. All right, and the big one refers to the ten times Katrina. So with those words, there are three takeaways that I want you to take from this.

The sun is a variable star, and the ultraviolet, for ultraviolet and x-rays, it varies by a factor of 100 to 1,000 in its output, although in the visual, it doesn’t vary very much at all, very small. And in the radio wavelengths, it varies by an extremely large amount. The second point I want to make is as we produce a increasingly efficient technologies and technical infrastructure, we are also producing a brittle infrastructure. The more efficient they become, the less robust they become. And then the last point that I want to make is that space weather can be a low-probability, high-impact event.

What are other examples of low-probability, high-impact events? Tsunamis, for example, earthquakes, category 5 typhoons or hurricanes are examples of that. So when I am talking about this, think about what happens in the worst case, and it is hard to get people centered around the worst case. I want to digress for just a second. You know, I am a humble country physicist from upstate New York, crossing the street here in Washington is an adventure for me. Taxicabs are very unpredictable. This is -- and sitting behind a desk is kind of an adventure for me as well. I am not used to it. This is two days in the life of a typical space scientist. On the left, I am there in Brazil with a graduate student; we are setting up a GPS receiver to make space weather measurements. And here the only hazards are possibly sunburn and the occasional Brazilian rattlesnake in the grass, which are easily avoidable. On the right, I am in Spitzberg in a sounding rocket launch, and here the only hazards are frostbite. Incidentally, that snow drift is three meters high; we have to crawl up to the top of it to get to the track vehicle to get home. So here the only hazards are frostbite and the occasional polar bear which walks through. So when you are sitting at your desk, think about the fact that there are other possibilities.

All right, the sun is a variable star. Let’s talk about the long-term variability. I hope most of you have heard of the sunspot cycle; it is about eleven years long, although it varies, you know, eleven and a half, ten and a half. This shows the monthly average sunspot number; it is a way of keeping track of the sunspot cycle. The fact that there was a cycle at all wasn’t discovered until during the period of about 1830 to 1850 by a German pharmacist and amateur astronomer who was keeping track of sunspots and suddenly realized there was a cycle. The maximum number of sunspots varies greatly. And in fact that sunspots completely disappear from time to time. The period between 1615 and 1700 is called the Maunder Minimum. And that period happens to coincide with the Little Ice Age in Europe. Is there a causal relationship? Is it accidental? We don’t know.

All right, I am going to refer later on to an event that occurred in 1859. The 1859 event is the lesser -- is the smaller event between a smaller solar cycle between two larger solar cycles. It was a huge event and if you had to pick that out from this graph, you would be hard put to do so. It would be hard to find when that super event occurred. So sunspots are a proxy, but that is not really what drives space weather. It is the short-term solar variability which leads to space weather. Solar flares, which are the conversion of magnetic energy to mechanical energy and to radiant energy, x-rays, ultraviolet. They produce things called coronal mass ejections, which is a fancy way of saying that the sun blows the top of its atmosphere off. And if that atmosphere happens to hit the earth, it produces a bright aurora, magnetic and ionspheric storms. Also produced -- these solar flares produce solar radio bursts, which are broadband bursts of radiation literally from the audio range up to many gigahertz. Out of these solar flares come solar energetic particles and enhanced radiation belts bearing energy from kilovolts to gigavolts, which are of course a hazard to satellites and astronauts. And it expands the thermosphere, which makes it difficult to predict satellite orbits which means trying to avoid debris in space becomes a problem.

Now, the impacts of space weather are -- well first off it impacts anything, literally anything that is in space, satellite debris, astronaut. All right, but it also affects a lot of things that are not in space. It affects GPS receivers and their accuracy. It affects aviation, particularly aviation over the poles. It affects, well, I will get to some of the others, but it can affect the ability to navigate and it can affect the ability to communicate well. In January 2005, 26 United Airline flights had to be diverted from their polar routes, primarily from New York to China. And if you get diverted, one of three things happens: either one has to leave the airplane, or one’s baggage leaves the airplane, or one lands in Anchorage, all of which are unpleasant consequences if you are affected. And I will show a more detailed example of this October-November 2003 case, when the FAA had produced its augmentation for GPS called the Wide Area Augmentation System, it was disabled for 30 hours, completely unexpected.

January 1994, two Canadian telecommunication satellites were disabled for a period of about six months, were never bought back to full capability, lost at 50 million to 70 million. In 1989, there was a magnetic storm that disrupted the Hydro-Quebec power system, that is Quebec lost -- the Province of Quebec lost its power for a period of nine hours and what surprised us is that it only took 90 seconds to happen. Frequently power operators can adapt if they have tens of minutes to shed load. And in this case, they only had 90 seconds and they couldn’t adapt.

Okay, now switch gears a little bit and talk about the Global Positioning System. The Global Positioning System was designed roughly between 1972 and 1979. The first electronic calculator is produced in 1971. If these were government engineers, they were almost certainly using slide rules. And I am also certain that they were using card decks and Fortran to program their computers. So it is a miracle the system was -- the architecture of this system was so durable and has lasted so long. But it is not -- it was never designed to do what we are doing with it today and that is synchronizing the power grid, it synchronizes internet, cell phone bay stations, it authenticates financial transactions, it is used for precision farming, surveying, and holds offshore oil platforms in place. All of these were never a part of the original plan. U.S. government only guarantees the GPS is available 95 percent of the time. All right, and next, GPS is a weak signal system, and this is not really appreciated by many people. Because it is weak, it is easy to interfere with it. So it was never designed to perform these functions. And for industries and for business plans, that want 24/7 seriously, completely uninterrupted operation, they have a problem. And their problem will appear in just a few years if they are in the next solar maximum.

I want to talk about solar radio bursts. This is an example of something that caught us completely by surprise, totally unexpected. At solar minimum on December 6, 2006, there was radio burst that caused temporary failure of precision GPS receivers across the sunlit earth. It was a 100 times more intense than any previous radio burst at solar minimum and ten times more intense than any previous solar radio burst ever recorded. We have only been recording them since about 1960, but this was a surprise. Have we missed something completely? Maybe.

This movie is going to show the effect on the receivers. On the bottom is the solar radio burst power at 1.6 gigahertz, the frequency of which -- one of the two frequencies GPS operates at. Up above, it shows a sampling of the International Global Navigation Satellite System network, and what is important about those dots is that they should be in the blue. That is they should be -- they have to have four observables to operate. If they get down into the yellow, orange, or red, they are no longer operating. All right, four or fewer, they have to have at least four and preferably six or more. So most of those are in the blue, okay? Now let’s start the movie up, and as you can see, it is a red dot, goes across, and we see parts of the low radio burst power. The colors of those dots will change in an unpleasant way, not a nice way. There is one receiver up there in Montana, it looks like, that is being problematic at the point -- maybe a seagull landed on the antenna. I don’t know. But as it goes through these even small perturbations in the solar radio burst power, you can see those dots changing to yellow and to the orange and red. And now we go into the more intense part of it, and virtually all of the receivers are failing. Now this is a brief failure, it is only 10, 15, 20 minutes this goes on, but it affects everything on the sunlit side of the earth. So how could this happen? How could we find ourselves in this situation?

Well, we did some forensics. We went back and we looked at the long-term monitoring of solar radio bursts. And it was performed -- it’s performed by the Air Force Radio Solar Telescope Network -- we refer to it as RSTN since 1960. We found out this RSTN saturates at 10 percent of the intensity of this December 6 event. So we have, essentially in terms of looking for high-impact -- excuse me, low-probability, high-impact events, we have lost all of the information. Why did the Air Force do this? I don’t really know, but I have a -- I suspect that the reason was that they had to show results on a short period of time. And as a scientist, if I want to be funded in the next funding cycle, I have to show results in three years. I cannot afford to wait a decade to find this high-impact, low-probability -- excuse me, high-probability -- low-probability, high-impact event, okay. And I suspect that was what was going on. As a result, we don’t know what the consequences are coming up in this next solar cycle, but we do know that potentially GPS can be affected.

All right, the ionosphere is one of the primary sources of ranging errors for GPS. And as a rule of thumb, ten meters of ranging error between a receiver and satellite produces [unintelligible] of about 20 to 30 meters in navigation error. So keep that in mind as I talk. As I mentioned before, the FAA costs about $200 million to develop the Wide Area Augmentation System, called WAAS, for aviation. It uses reference receivers, there’s 26 reference receivers roughly spaced throughout North America. And it assumes that the ionosphere behaves smoothly between the reference receivers. These references receivers calculate the errors produced by the ionosphere, they are uplinked to a geostationary satellite, they are downlinked to an airplane. All right, and as long as the ionosphere is smooth, everything is fine. The problem is that the ionosphere is not smooth during magnetic storms.

Now, this WAAS system was implemented in July of 2003. Here we have -- I am going to show you a movie from October 2003. On the right is a color bar showing the vertical protection level. The vertical protection level is this vertical spacing that they have to make between airplanes. And the pilot will see a map very similar to this as they make up their flight plans. And so the scale runs from zero, the dark blue, up to about 75, dark red, at the top and, of course, we want to be in the blue. The closer that we can space planes together, the denser the traffic can be, the less likely you will be delayed at your airport, so -- and you can see most of the U.S. is in the blue here. Let’s start up the map -- the movie. You will see it evolves as satellites rise and set. And then something will start to happen in the south of the U.S. The operators were appalled when they saw this. It had only been in operation three months and they had to shut it down for 30 hours. And to make things worse, three weeks later the exact thing -- same thing happened. As a result, this WAAS system is only used by -- excuse me, business aviation and general aviation. It is not used by commercial airplanes. All right, how can this happen?

Well, once again, these storms that happen at mid-latitudes don’t happen very often. It is hard to get funding to study them. All right, but once we had a little bit of funding, and we know that this happened, we can go take a look. Here, if you look at the green line, now see what is plotted here is a ranging error to a satellite. All right, remember that factor two or three between ranging error and navigation error. We look at a receiver at Pittsburgh and compare it to a receiver at Washington; the ranging error differs by 25 meters, so I cannot use a Pittsburgh receiving to correct the Washington airplane, for example. That would give me an error of 50 to 75 meters, which would miss the runway. All right, so we discovered this after the fact, so to speak, and the WAAS system continues to operate, but it is vulnerable to these outages.

All right, what I have talked about so far is sort of average storms. It turns out that there is a big one. It occurred in 1959 [sic]; it is called the Carrington Event after Richard Carrington, early astronomer, privately funded. And I like this; he was funded by the family beer fortune, and decided to take that ill-gotten gain and apply it to some science. And he, in that period of time, of course, if one wanted to observe, one had to do it by eye. There were no sensors and there was no photography, so if one wanted a picture, one had to sketch it. And he was known for his ability to sketch these sunspots. All right, and on September 1, he was sketching it when he saw two patches of intensely bright white light in the mark A and B on this chart. And it is the only known white light visible flare. In the rest of history I don’t think this has happened since then. All right, it surprised him. He was a somewhat forward-looking scientist. He thought that there might be a connection between solar flares and magnetic activity to the earth which wouldn’t be established or accepted until about 40 years later. And he was also somewhat modern in that he did not believe in the current theory of sunspots which was that they were breaks in the solar clouds revealing the rocky interior. That’s where astronomers were in 1859.

All right, so keep that in mind, September 1, there’s a big solar flare and there’s probably other solar flares which are not visible to the naked eye occurring. And this is what happened just before September 1, there was a great solar magnetic storm, August 28, 29. There were lots of newspaper reports of this; they could be seen in places where they were not normally seen. The red dots here represent newspaper reports. One of them is in Havana, so it is occurring quite far south. One in Cleveland, Ohio says that the aurora was light as a moon at half full. And if you live in the country, not in the city, the moon at half full is completely adequate to walk outside at night. Now, the event continued during the night, spreading across the southern United States, taking on lots of different colors and then settled down.

A few days later, and the day after the solar flare, there was another solar storm. In this case, the aurora was seen in Panama and Venezuela, okay, extremely far south. This is the report from a ship’s log -- I like the last sentence of it; frequently when I take new graduate students to the north, rare occasions one of my children, they see the aurora for the first time, it is hard to find words to describe it, even now. It’s a moving object. It is not static like you see in the pictures, and it envelopes the whole sky. Now, when my youngest son first saw the northern lights, he said, “I feel like I’m on Saturn.” Those were his words.

Okay, but it wasn’t also just a beautiful object, it had real effects on our infrastructure. This was taken from The New York Times archives -- microfiche archives, so it is a little bit hard to read. Let me read it for you: “The electricity which attended this beautiful phenomenon took possession of the magnetic wires throughout the country, and there are numerous side displays in the telegraph offices where all sorts of fantastical and unreadable messages came through the instruments before the atmospheric fireworks assumed shape, and substance, and brilliant sparks.” Morse code wasn’t like the movies there; there wasn’t an operator listening to the dashes and dots. Frequently there was a chemically-doped paper, and the dashes and dots would be put onto this chemically-doped paper, which would burst into flames, and a few of these telegraph sheds burned down.

Here is another one: “When the light was uniform, [unintelligible] it had but little effect on the wires” -- and my physics friends should appreciate this -- “it would be thus sometimes for five or ten minutes at a time, but when the streamers were shooting from the edge of the horizon to the zenith, the battery crunch would sometimes be reversed and at others increased apparently to the null capacity of the wire, gave me this very strong magnetism on house, Morse, and C combination magnets.” So it is not just that the aurora -- or the electric currents associated with them, there has to be a time rate of change associated with it. And that is because the whole system is acting like a transformer. But it also had an effect on the telegraph operators: “Happening to lean down toward the sounder which is against the wall, my forehead grazed a ground wire which runs down the wall near the sounder. Immediately, I received a very severe electrical shock which stunned me for an instant. An old man was sitting facing me but a few feet distant, said he saw a spark of fire jump from my forehead to the sounder.” So even then it was dangerous to be a space weather scientist.

All right, so an overview of the 1959 [sic] event: telegraphs, the digital communications wonder of the world, were affected all over the world. The aurora reached extremely low latitudes, but most importantly, the observations were inadequate for us to predict what would happen if that storm occurred today. And it’s because the time rate of change is a critical number here. The measurements were just not dense enough in time. Oh, this is some graphics. So if the -- this is a berculine current and it shows it varying and the point is that there is an area, there is a time rate of change in the magnetic field, and it produces a voltage at the telegraph operator. But today the telegraph lines are replaced by power lines, so what happened in Quebec was there was a time rate of change in the magnetic field produced by the aurora across an area A, and the transformers blew up.

So how do we deal with this today? What do we do? All right, well what is different from today than, I don’t know, 150 years ago? Well, we have the power grid. The power grid in length in the last 50 years has increased by a factor of 50. So, just compared to the last 50 years, we’re 50 times more vulnerable -- 8 times more vulnerable. Excuse me, 50 years, 8 times more vulnerable, 8 times longer than then. And then we have to -- so we make up a model. This was done by John Capperman of MegaTech Corporation. We make up this model and then we do have good magnetic field observations from a 1921 storm. We apply those magnetic field observations to this model for the grid, and we get the following: all right, the red and the green just refer to polarity for the geomagnetically-induced currents in the transformers. The larger currents, the larger dots refer to larger currents. And the point is that there’s two areas of probable system collapse here, one in northwest, one of the east coast all the way to the Mississippi River. And this is a population of 130 million people. What collapses in these are the large transformers at the power stations. And if they collapse, if they are destroyed, right now there is a three year waiting period for these large transformers. They aren’t produced in the U.S. They are produced in Germany, Brazil, and China. We would be -- these populations would be without power for at least many months and perhaps years before it got restored.

Okay, so we live in a technically interdependent society. I hope this is reasonably obvious; if we loss electric power, we lose transportation. We can’t pump gasoline anymore. We lose our ability, say, for water; we lose -- the water goes away because we can’t pump it. Financial services go away if there are no electric services. The Internet goes away. All of these things disappear if we lose power. So what are the policy implications for this? All right, it is sort of -- I think it is obvious to us that preparing for these low-probability, high-impact events is difficult politically. If it hasn’t occurred in the past -- mindset is if it hasn’t occurred in the past, it probably will not occur in the future. Right? That is what happened to the two Apollo disasters -- excuse me, the two space shuttle disasters. Government and industry regulatory groups are just reluctant to take on this if you can’t demonstrate that it is going to happen in their lifetime,e for example.

Okay, we are making more and more efficient technical infrastructure, but as we make that efficient technical infrastructure, it’s brittle. What do you do about a brittle technical infrastructure? All right, and it is being driven by economic and social forces that, at least as a humble scientist, I feel are somewhat beyond my control. All I can do is raise a flag, raise a warning flag, and say that there is a problem. But I hope in my year here at the State Department I will learn how to do more than that, how to actually affect policy. And there are more threats beside space weather to a fragile, brittle interdependent infrastructure, and nuclear, electromagnetic pulse is a simple example. A tsunami that occurs from a landslide in the Canary Islands and strikes New York City 30 meters high is another example. All of these are low-probability, but high-impact events that we should, I think, should have some preparation for. So here is how we can respond.

One way is to maintain backup systems. eLORAN is a navigational system; the Obama budget last spring proposed eliminating it. OSTP was convinced them that we needed to have redundant systems, not nearly as accurate as GPS, but at least if you have eLORAN, you can find the airport. Regulate critical industries -- and this is tough; we have just gone through a period of deregulation of the power companies. Okay, deregulation, how many people know that deregulation was responsible for the 2003 Northeast Blackout? Now, okay, what happened was that the company operating the transmission lines decided to be more economically efficient, which meant that they weren’t trimming the trees. Well, on a hot day, the power lines sagged, hit the trees, and started the whole 2003 blackout. We can build predictive capability and we have built some predictive capability. And we can promote international cooperation since space weather is a truly global issue. This is a great chance for diplomatic diplomacy, and it is sort of a low-hanging fruit that we can work together on. We can promote engineering solutions when it is possible. We have to convince the engineers to listen to us and we have to convince their financial people to implement the engineering solution. But in some cases we can’t do that, and in that case we simply have to predict and respond appropriately.

So, thank you very much. I hope I stayed in my 30 to 35 minutes.

[applause]

Mark Berchetti: Hi, my name is Mark Berchetti. Obviously you are pointing out some real scientific risks out there that most of us don’t know about. And my guess is that a lot of the high-level political appointees in places like the FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also are not aware of these sorts of risks. Where is the proper place within the federal government for scientists to find a forum to actually raise these risks to the political level, so politicians and regulators can focus on them? Do we have some mechanism that allows scientists to raise these issues?

Dr. Paul Kintner: Well, it is certainly being raised by the National Science Foundation; it is being raised at NASA. I showed a picture of a National Academy report from last year; there’s a National Academy study of these problems. I think it is not so much -- you know, if I went to the average Congressman, they probably could spell “space weather.” But in terms of the list of priorities, it is not -- I don’t think they would consider it important for them getting elected in the next cycle. And that is why I come back to this whole business of low-probability, high-impact events. How do we get our arms around them and how do we get them into our political consciousness? I would love to have an answer to your question; I don’t.

Pete Kelly: Hello, Paul. This is Pete Kelly. And it has been a while since I read the National Academy’s report that you mentioned but it was my impression, correct me if I am wrong, that there was discussion in that report that the satellites which we have been relying upon to detect a geomagnetic storms or solar storms, which would then generate geomagnetic storms, are perhaps nearing the end of their useful lifetime, or otherwise, you know, or maybe not as reliable as they should be or could be. And could you amplify on that please?

Dr. Paul Kintner: Yeah, you are absolutely correct. There is a program run by the DOD called the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program that has space weather sensors on it. It is going to be converted to a program called IMPOSE in association with NOAA and all the space weather sensors have been kicked off. There is a study to see -- which should be out sometime in November, hopefully -- to propose backup plans to do that. That is a strategy to produce those same measurements, but without using the IMPOSE spacecraft. But more importantly, there is a spacecraft at the L1 Lagrange point which is the point where the sun’s and the earth’s mass cause the gravitational field to be zero, so a satellite can sit there. It is not a stable point, but a satellite can sit there with a little bit of fuel to keep it in the stability forever, as long as it has fuel. And that has some sensors on it, give us about, depends on the solar wind speed, 30 minutes to an hour’s warning of what is going to happen, which is enough to, if people are sharp, is enough for power grid operators to respond. That system has about five years of fuel left and then it goes away. There is another study proposed to look at that but, look, I can tell you what the right answer is in all of these problems: more money. And we are in an environment where more money frequently is not an acceptable answer. So hopefully we will find a way. It’s also a time perhaps we can collaborate with our colleagues in Korea and other spacefaring nations, India, and maybe they can step up and provide some of these measurements as well.

Pete Kelly: I wonder if I could just extend that a little bit. So the spacecraft that you were talking about at the gravitational null point is pretty far out there. And then the presumption would be that the electromagnetic signal which it would send back to Earth would be faster than what I thought would be radiation, which was traveling at the same speed.

Dr. Paul Kintner:  Yeah, okay, it warns us about some things, but not all things. It wouldn’t warn us about solar radio bursts; it wouldn’t warn us about x-rays. It just warns us if there is a big shock in the solar wind. And that big shock in the solar wind is what produces magnetic consequences at the surface of the earth. So for the power grid, it would give you 30 minutes to an hour, for a GPS -- solar radio burst interfering with GPS, it wouldn’t be helpful at all. It would come with the solar flare, more or less instantaneously.

David Jefferson: David Jefferson, Office of Japan Affairs. Aside from collaborating with other spacefaring nations for signal gathering, do you -- what are some other examples of the low-hanging fruit for collaboration?

Dr. Paul Kintner: Well, exchanging the data, for example. The data has to be exchanged in an appropriate -- timely, appropriate manner, in case minutes. There has to be common formats for the data need to be agreed upon. It would be helpful -- we have representatives here who are creating models which are used to predict space weather and there needs to be some standardization of those models so we all know what to expect. The worst thing that can happen is that we have models which have -- predict space weather events that don’t happen. If that occurs, people get lazy and no longer believe the models and we are worse off than we were before. So there is a large variety, and most of this occurs scientist to scientist. And raising it to the international level has a great deal of fruit there. And Japan is one of those areas that does get affected by space weather frequently. We should chat some time about it. I have got some other movies that I can show you where space weather over Japan.

David Jefferson: That would be great.

Male Speaker: I think I would like to follow on to David’s question and that is, go further into the international collaboration aspects. And that would be in the predictive area because you have really laid out an urgency while they are low-probability, high-impact events, the infrastructure will probably not get any more resilient in the next 10 to 20 years. So we are going in the wrong direction on infrastructure. What about predictive capability, where do you go and which countries should we be working with for such predictive capability? And what will it give us, Paul?

Dr. Paul Kintner: Well, actually the people in the audience here can probably answer that better than me. But I am on the stage, so I will give it my best shot. Okay. There has been a lot of progress in the last five years in terms of modeling space weather for predictive capability. What we really lack, at least in my opinion, what we really lack are the measurements to drive the models in real time. The meteorological -- my colleagues in the troposphere have weather soundings and buoys and temperature readings and total water vapor content, you know, even GPS now is used on satellites and is being put on satellites to measure total water vapor content in the troposphere and the lower stratosphere. And it is being put into predictive weather capabilities. It predicted the intensity and the direction of a typhoon in the Pacific which ended up striking Korea and gave them warnings that they would not otherwise had, a very interesting study on that.

So in terms -- the modeling -- I think that India is certainly a country that has a great deal of expertise both in space and a great interest in space science and a great interest -- a traditional interest in space science and certainly an educated technical workforce that we can collaborate with, Japan, we could certainly collaborate with, colleagues in Europe, we could certainly collaborate with. So there are almost too many possibilities, so to speak. But we need to get started on it. Would any of my colleagues like to add to that in the audience? No, okay, so I have been told that I did well. All right, thank you.

Paul Morris:  Hello, Paul Morris from the National Science Foundation. You made some reference to telecommunication, impact of telecommunications from space weather. But it is actually only the Qualcomm CDMA system that uses GPS synchronization at their bay stations, not the European GSM system. So your Verizon and your Sprint phones will stop working, but your T-Mobile and AT&T devices will continue to work during one of these space weather events. Just wanted to make that point.

[laughter]

Dr. Paul Kintner: Well, thank you. I guess I should switch providers.

[laughter]

Well, I didn’t have time to go into all space weather here. There is certainly the issue of simulations which will -- well, let’s see, simulations. Let me think about it. No, I guess probably you are right. I should switch providers.

[laughter]

Larry Zinetti: Larry Zinetti from Johns Hopkins Implied Physics Lab. I was intrigued with the global or national solutions to some of these problems. The high-latitude polar routes, the issue there during storms is communication. There are other global communications systems like iridium, for example, wonder why these aren’t used as a backup for communication. I suppose your answer is going to be costs, but --

Dr. Paul Kintner: You know, my impression that scientists can find a technical solution to almost any problem, but operationally that solution almost never works. And I don’t know what the operational problems over -- to use iridium are to use over the poles; it may just be cost for all I know. But I am not aware of any aviation services that use iridium. Interesting point.

Larry Zinetti: I thought the military was using it as some sort of a backup. I may be wrong.

Dr. Paul Kintner: Well, iridium is actually being studied as a backup for GPS at the moment. That the signals on them would be stable enough to not get five meters accuracy but maybe 25 meters to 50 meters of accuracy. So that is one of the systems that is being evaluated as a backup.

Andrew Reynolds: Any other questions? Folks, I would like to say I am very happy to see representatives from the National Science Foundation, from the Air Force, from NASA, and the last gentleman, Paul Netti, from Johns Hopkins here. That’s the sort of hope that we have to attract people from many organizations in their disciplines to come and share in these lectures. And I would encourage you before you leave to talk to Paul and be sure that we benefit from the network that might be created by just this small event today.

So with that, I will say thank you, Paul, for a very thought-provoking presentation. I wish you very well in your assignment. And we will be working closely with Bob Ford and our colleagues from OES to make sure we give you the opportunities and the networking that you require to push this important issue forward. Thank you again.

Dr. Paul Kintner:

Thank you.



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