Solar Activity and Powerpoint Presentations

August 4, 2010  - By 0 Comments

You might have heard reports this week about a solar storm this week. This is part of the new solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) that I’ve written about several times. I want to periodically touch on this subject as the solar activity is going to increase over the next few years, and if the solar activity (geomagnetic storms, not sunspots) is severe enough, it will have an effect on GPS accuracy and tracking. Here’s the scoop on this week’s solar activity.

First of all, I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m working on a new solar activity notification system specifically designed for GPS users. The problem is that people see reports in the mainstream media about solar activity and they automatically assume that it’s going to affect their GPS. Not all solar storms affect GPS; in fact only very specific ones (geomagnetic storms) of sufficient strength will affect GPS operations. I’m working on a notification system that will be tailored to both GPS L1 and GPS L1/L2 users (they are affected differently) so GPS users can have a reliable and specific source of information on solar activity without having to wade through the mainstream media noise.

Stay tuned for details this fall in this newsletter to learn more about my notification system and how to and access it. If you’ve ever used some of the GPS hardware/software products I helped design, you know my top priority is to make it easy to use and understandable.

This week’s event was probably the strongest geomagnetic storm of this solar cycle and of recent years (edit: actually, the storm in early April 2010 was a little stronger), maybe since late 2006. It will create some beautiful “northern lights,” but as strong as that may seem, it still wasn’t strong enough to elicit even a “cautionary” warning to GPS users (neither GPS L1 nor GPS L1/L2).

 

NASA video of sun’s activity on August 2, 2010

 

The last geomagnetic storm that adversely affected GPS users was in December 2006. It affected some GPS users for 10-15 minutes. For such a short time, most users would not notice or they might attribute it to a local system malfunction. By the time they investigate and reset the system, the event has passed and the user is back in operation. It was barely noticeable, if at all.

On the other hand, a severe geomagnetic storm such as the one that occurred in October 2003 can last for days and wreak havoc on precision GPS receivers. During extreme geomagnetic storms like that one, GPS accuracy suffers a lot, especially with GPS L1 users. During that event, simulations from the University of Calgary showed that WAAS maximum horizontal error (95th percentile) reached 25 meters while single baseline DGPS maximum horizontal error (95th percentile) reached 18 meters.

Dual-frequency users aren’t affected as much by extreme events but aren’t immune. Extreme events such as October 2003 can cause a loss of phase lock, especially with L2 on receivers that utilizing codeless and semicodeless techniques, which are virtually all of the dual-frequency GPS receivers on the market as of today.

For GPS users, nothing can be done to mitigate the effects of a strong geomagnetic storm. The next best step is to try to predict when they will occur so GPS users know what to expect. Fortunately, these storms are not common and scientists can reasonably predict when an event will occur.

There are some good websites to reference when checking up on solar activity. A great place for Europeans to do this is at the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium’s website. The U.S. National Weather Service also operates the Space Weather Prediction Center. The Australian Space Weather Agency operates a Space Weather Prediction Center, too. Also, note that for those users along the equator and at higher latitudes, your area is more susceptible to stronger geomagnetic storm activity.

The websites listed above are chock full of information and predictive systems on space weather. In fact, I believe it’s too much information for most GPS users to efficiently interpret. The goal with my new initiative is to provide GPS users with a quick summary so they are able to make informed decisions in a few seconds. Again, stay tuned this fall for the rollout.

 

Conference/Webinar Presentations

Between webinars and conferences, I’ve put together a fair number of Powerpoint presentations. I’m in the process of uploading many of them, some dating back years, to our website. Currently, I’ve uploaded ones that date back to April 2010. I hope you enjoy them.

The following presentations have all been converted to PDF format and are copyrighted. Feel free to incorporate them (or parts of them) into your documents if you like, just please remember to attribute each page you use to my name, Eric Gakstatter, and GPS World/Geospatial Solutions.

 

2010 (July San Diego, California) ESRI Surveying and Engineering GIS Summit luncheon keynote presentation: Get It Surveyed (GIS).

 

2010 (June, Seattle, Washington) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting: Mapping and Surveying with SBAS+GPS.

 

2010 (June, Portland, Oregon) Webinar: GIS Mapping for Forestry, Agriculture, and Other Natural Resource Professionals.

Note that for the following webinar, you can also download an audio portion of the webinar free of charge by clicking here.

 

2010 (April, Portland, Oregon) Webinar: GPS, GLONASS, and SBAS Constellation Updates.

Note that for the following webinar, you can also download an audio portion of the webinar free of charge by clicking here.

 

2010 (April, Phoenix, Arizona) ACSM Annual Conference: GNSS Technology Update.

 

2010 (April, Phoenix, Arizona) GITA Annual Conference: How the Evolution of GPS is Transforming Surveying and Mapping (along with Pamela Fromhertz of NGS).

Part 1 - GNSS Mapping/Surveying Technology Update

 

2010 (April, Phoenix, Arizona) GITA Annual Conference: How the Evolution of GPS is Transforming Surveying and Mapping (along with Pamela Fromhertz of NGS).

Part 2 – Machine Control Using GNSS

 

2010 (April, Phoenix, Arizona) GITA Annual Conference: How the Evolution of GPS is Transforming Surveying and Mapping (along with Pamela Fromhertz of NGS).

Part 3 – Sub-Meter Mapping Using GPS

 

2010 (April, Phoenix, Arizona) GITA Annual Conference: How the Evolution of GPS is Transforming Surveying and Mapping (along with Pamela Fromhertz of NGS).

Part 4 – Low-Cost GPS Receivers for GIS Mapping

Thanks, and see you next time.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/GPSGIS_Eric

This article is tagged with and posted in Newsletter Editorials, Opinions, Survey, Survey Scene
GPS World staff

About the Author:

Post a Comment