The Space Weather Prediction Center and the Space Weather Prediction Testbed have introduced a new Auroral Forecast test product in an effort to improve services to current customers and expand our customer base with new products. The Auroral Forecast product is based on the OVATION Prime model which provides a 30-40 minute forecast on the location and probability of auroral displays for both the northern and southern polar regions. The development and implementation of this model has been a joint effort. The model itself was developed by P. Newell at the Johns Hopkins, Applied Physics Lab. Scientists at the NESDIS National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) added further refinements to make the model run in real time. Researchers at the Space Weather Prediction Testbed validated the model and developed graphical displays. This model is driven by real-time solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field information from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite. The model is based on more than 11 years of data from the Defense Meteorlogical Satellite Program (DMSP) from which an empirical relationship between the solar wind conditions and the aurora location and intensity was developed.
This model provides estimates of where the aurora might be visible. The model itself provides output in terms of energy per unit area. However, for these displays, the data have been converted into a relative intensity map. This has been further translated into a probability of observation. Thus, the images show both where the aurora is most likely to be observed as well as how bright it might be. The model also calculates a globally integrated total energy deposition in gigaWatts (GW). This is referred to as the Hemispheric Power and ranges from 5 to 150. For values below about 20, there may be little or no aurora observable. For values between 20 and 50, you may need to be near the aurora to see it. For values above 50, the aurora should be quite observable with lots of activity and motion across the sky. Once the Hemispheric Power reaches levels of 100 or more, this is considered to be a very significant geomagnetic storm and the aurora may be seen from hundreds of miles away.
The model also provides more quantitative information on the electron energy deposition into the atmosphere and the energy spectrum of those precipitating electrons although this detailed information is not yet provided as part of this new product. The detailed electron and proton precipitation information is critical for ionospheric forecast models that provide specification and forecasts for GPS/GNSS navigation and HF radio users. This product has been running in a test mode for more than a year. The plans are to expand the output of the model to provide data for displays in multiple formats including KLM for Google Earth,. This model is planned to be transitioned to operations sometime in late 2013.