Transforming the future of weather forecasting with smaller, faster, more accurate technology
Extreme weather events are on the rise, increasing in intensity and severity (i). With most catastrophic weather events taking place in a matter of hours and the consequent losses running into billions of pounds, the need for accurate, rapid weather forecasting has never been more critical.
With resolution four times higher than existing sounder technology, and a hardware footprint 50 fold smaller, the first of its kind, miniature HYperspectral Microwave Sounder (HYMS) currently being developed at RAL Space will fit on a nano-satellite and looks set to transform the future of weather forecasting.
Photo: Super Typhoon Trami captured from the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/A.Gerst, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Sharing expertise to make environmental science data more widely accessible
OVERVIEW: CEDA are working with the UK government to provide access to Analysis Ready Data (ARD) for environmental monitoring.
THE CHALLENGE: The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Earth Observation Centre of Excellence identified the need for tools and services to enable rapid analysis of Earth observation data in support of decision-making across the nations of the UK.
They needed a large quantity of Sentinel-1 and 2 data to be standardised and pre-processed into data products in a common form ready for analysis, thus reducing duplicated effort and the potential for inconsistencies in data preparation.
THE SOLUTION: CEDA are providing access to processing for Scotland and Northern Ireland and archival facilities to enable the creation of ARD from the Sentinel-1 and 2 missions for the UK.
JASMIN, the data intensive supercomputer, makes it easier to access by providing a large centralised store, the CEDA Archive, to host and disseminate standardised, pre-processed data products to the UK public sector.
THE OUTCOME: CEDA now holds 61 TB of this Sentinel ARD which is increasing by roughly 2.5 TB per month and covers England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
ARD is already being used by the public sector for habitat mapping, monitoring forest change and crop mapping. It is estimated that access to ARD products could save up to 70% of project time.
CEDA are adding the ARD into the Satellite Data Finder so that users can search for products over areas of interest.
Ulric Wilson, Co-Team Leader, Digital and Data Solutions, JNCC said:
“JASMIN’s huge interactive and batch computing environment has allowed us to scale up our processing workflows for Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 Analysis Ready Data. JNCC are helping public sector partners develop applications based on the ARD in the CEDA Archive using JASMIN’s cloud computing facilities. Direct access to the shared archive of ARD allows partners to focus resources on innovative analyses, rather than low level data preparation, including landscape monitoring and change detection, crop mapping, managed burning and wildfire extent.”
Photo: JASMIN data analysis facility. Credit: STFC
Connecting and supporting the UK space weather community
Without any mitigations in place, a major space weather event could cost the UK £15 billion (ii). STFC and the Natural Environment Research Council are connecting research in academia to operations at the UK Met Office through the SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk) programme. This investment is facilitating significant improvements in the UK’s monitoring and forecasting capabilities for space weather through the development of new instruments, models and services alongside an innovative framework for wider international collaboration.
Simon Machin, Met Office Space Weather Programme Manager said:
“The exciting SWIMMR programme forms the bedrock of our development over the next few years and will make a great contribution to the safety and wellbeing of our national interests, whilst putting out a strong and positive message about the exploitation of world leading science in the UK.”
Photo 1: The Aurora Borealis. Photo 2: Magnetic loops on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA
Testing to the extremes
Despite the test facilities being shut down for several months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our teams have been busy keeping as many projects on track as possible. The dynamics team experienced only 10% fewer test days than 2019 while also adding pyroshock to their capabilities. 16 different projects were tested in our thermal vacuum chambers and our cleanrooms housed a variety of projects for major international missions.
Construction of the National Satellite Test Facility continued throughout 2020. The exterior of the build was completed and several major pieces of test equipment were delivered, including the Large Space Test Chamber during the severest period of lockdown in England.
Commercialising research to improve connectivity
OVERVIEW: A new spin-out company, Atheras Analytics, has been established thanks to research undertaken at RAL Space.
CHALLENGE: High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems will provide the backbone for satellite-based 5G data services. To meet increasing demands for fast data transmission they will need to use higher frequency bands which are more susceptible to weather outages.
SOLUTION: RAL Space scientists have used weather and satellite signal data from the Chilbolton Observatory and other measurement sites across Europe to develop an AI-based algorithm that predicts and manages weather outages across multiple satellite gateways.
OUTCOME: This will enable operators of HTS systems to significantly reduce capital investment in their gateway networks and to optimise the operation of their networks to ensure that high network availabilities are always achieved.
Atheras Analytics will exploit this research and commercialise it for the good of the UK economy.
John Yates, Director of Atheras Analytics said:
“The research undertaken by RAL Space during the last four years will give us a significant first-to-market advantage in delivering this technology to the High Throughput Satellite operators. We hope to continue working with RAL Space in the future to provide similar research at even higher frequencies in order to “future-proof” our technology.”
Photo: 25m dish at the Chilbolton Observatory. Credit: STFC/ Chris Madden