press release
Published: 29 June 2020

Surrey awarded £2m to develop radiation mapping tool to keep aircraft safe

The University of Surrey will lead a new £2million project to develop a tool that will provide the UK Met Office with global maps of radiation levels in the atmosphere during solar storms.

Explosions on the surface of the Sun can create energetic outbursts of electrically-charged particles which are sometimes detectable on the Earth's surface. These unpredictable events typically last for some hours and are capable of disrupting complex microelectronic systems, in particular those in aircraft due to their greater exposure.

A team from the world-renowned Surrey Space Centre is partnering with University College London, the University of Central Lancashire and the British Geological Survey to develop a tool called the Model for Atmospheric Ionising Radiation Environments (MAIRE), which will upgrade the Met Office’s space weather radiation hazard systems.

MAIRE’s maps of radiation levels in the atmosphere during solar storms will reach from ground level to the altitudes used by very high-flying aircraft, giving meteorologists the information needed to issue alerts and all-clear messages.

The project’s funding is part of the Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk programme, led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council with the Natural Environment Research Council.

Dr Keith Ryden, Principal Investigator of the project and Reader in Space Engineering at the University of Surrey, said: “We are excited to begin work on the MAIRE project and help the country upgrade its space weather forecast capability. The Surrey Space Centre has a rich history of high impact research that pushes the aerospace industry and its associated engineering disciplines forward and we hope to carry on that tradition with this project and for years to come.”

Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, said:” SWIMMR is great example of NERC working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council and other partners to support world-leading environmental research, and the funding will maximise the impact and uptake of an essential forecasting service relied upon by Government and businesses. These exciting projects will further our understanding and confirm the UK’s reputation as an international leader in this field.” 

Simon Machin, Space Weather Programme Manager at the Met Office, said: We are very excited by the prospect of working with the crème of UK science and academia on the SWIMMR projects. SWIMMR will deliver a step change in UK space weather monitoring, warning and prediction capability by supporting pull-through of cutting-edge science into operational services. This will enable the Met Office to provide a greater range of more accurate services driven by the needs of users and underpins the UK’s strategic aims to grow and exploit opportunities in the space domain.

“SWIMMR communicates a clear vision of cementing the UK as a world leader in space weather and our thanks go out to all partners and stakeholders for supporting this programme of work.”

Share what you've read?

Media Contacts

External Communications and PR team
Phone: +44 (0)1483 684380 / 688914 / 684378
Out of hours: +44 (0)7773 479911