Instruments Installed in Greenland Will Enhance Space Weather Forecasts
By Plans and Programs Directorate, AFRL/XP
/ Published December 12, 2006
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Under an international cooperative research project between the US Air Force (AF), Denmark's Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Transport and Energy, and the Greenland Home Rule government, AFRL researchers deployed a suite of five ionospheric monitoring instruments at Station Nord, located in far northeast Greenland. With assistance from the Danish site crew, AFRL scientists installed a digital ionosonde for determining ionospheric density profiles; an all-sky imager for observing aurora and ionospheric plasma clouds; and three additional systems for detecting ionospheric scintillation via fluctuations in the strength of signals from various satellites, including the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Despite the 3 ft of snow and ice still on the ground at the site even in late summer, the deployment team prevailed over the remnants of the region's harsh arctic weather to successfully construct the approximately 82 x 200 ft ionosonde transmit antenna. AFRL researchers and their Danish counterparts will use the data to generate realistic maps and models of the highly variable polar ionosphere, which will enhance space weather forecast capabilities and also facilitate development of algorithms for improving systems affected by the ionosphere. Station Nord occupies a key location midway between major ionospheric investigation facilities in Svalbard, Norway, and AF operational and research capabilities in Thule, Greenland.
Space weather information collected at the new site will advance the development of algorithms capable of detecting, correcting, or mitigating ionospheric effects on radio-based systems, including the upgraded early-warning radars in Thule and other high-latitude sites; the GPS; and AF satellite communications, high-frequency communications, geolocation, and space-based radar systems. In addition, a real-time data link from the location will provide information for "nowcasts" and short-range forecasts of space weather impacts on communications, navigation, and surveillance systems.