Space Weather Priming: the missing link in prediction

Andrew J. Kavanagh, British Antarctic Survey,; Daniel Whiter, University of Southampton,; Gareth Chisham, British Antarctic Survey, profile/gchi/; Jade Reidy, British Antarctic Survey; Sarah Glauert, British Antarctic Survey

PLEASE NOTE:  Application deadline date 08 Jan 2024.  Applications are no longer being accepted for this project

Project Overview 

This project will answer the question: do the impacts of solar storms depend on previous space weather activity? Decades of data from powerful, advanced radars will be used to study how our space environment responds at different temporal and spatial scales to space weather storms.

Project Description 

The hazardous nature of space weather storms impacts technological systems in both space and on the ground. The UK is currently establishing operational models for space weather prediction though the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre, but there are major challenges in predicting impacts, and understanding how the near space environment and atmosphere responds to space weather driving. For example, two similar space weather storms can have very different impacts on the heating of the upper atmosphere with implications for atmospheric drag on satellites and debris. A likely culprit for these differences is the priming of the system from previous space weather activity; changes in the underlying magnetic configuration and plasma environment can result in very different impacts, on top of the seasonal effects imparted by the neutral atmosphere.

This project will use the international EISCAT radars and the global SuperDARN radar network, facilities that have led the study of ionospheric phenomenon for decades.  These provide a considerable archive of important ionospheric parameters (e.g. the ionospheric electric field and conductance), which will facilitate statistical analysis of the response of the ionosphere to space weather.

The successful candidate will:

  • Identify the distributions of the data for different levels of space weather and analyse how they change when the recent history of space weather activity is considered.
  • Determine how much the preceding values can be used to predict the future, with or without considering the driving.
  • Build simple models for prediction and validate against new data, and compare with existing model outputs.


University of Southampton, Highfield Campus

The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at BAS.


Specific training will include:


Courses on presentation, paper writing and organizational skills. Seminars on space weather science from members of the Space Weather and Atmosphere Team at BAS.  Opportunities to attend training national training schools on solar terrestrial physics. Training on how to use the EISCAT and SuperDARN radars, accessing the data archive and interpreting the data from the UK EISCAT Support Group that is part hosted at BAS.

The student will be encouraged to take part in the BAS mentoring scheme to provide additional coaching and advice on courses, opportunities and career progression from a wider perspective.


Eligibility & Funding Details: 
Background Reading: 

Kavanagh, A. J., Ogawa, Y., & Woodfield, E. E. (2022). Two techniques for determining F-region ion velocities at meso-scales: Differences and impacts on Joule heating. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 127, e2021JA030062.


Chisham, G., & Freeman, M. P. (2023). Separating contributions to plasma vorticity in the high-latitude ionosphere from large-scale convection and meso-scale turbulence. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 128, e2023JA031885.