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Space Weather Symposium Hosted by USRA and GWU Space Policy Institute

Columbia, Md., April 6, 2016 - The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University presented a symposium titled "Space Weather Science and Applications" on March 31, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Space Weather experts from universities and government agencies urged for action to prepare for a "low probability but high-impact event." Panelists agreed that further research, the establishment of strong public-private collaboration, and international cooperation will better prepare the world for a space weather event. Space weather is defined as the natural processes in space that can affect the near-Earth environment. If a solar storm travels through space impacting Earth's magnetosphere, infrastructure systems such as GPS, telephones, air travel, and even the electric power grid could be inaccessible or diminished for days, months or possibly years.

USRA President and CEO and GWU SPI Director

Jeffrey A. Isaacson, USRA President and Chief Executive Officer, and Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, welcomed guests and speakers with introductory remarks.

Symposium audience

University professors and other space weather experts attended the symposium.

Tamara L. Dickinson

The Frederick A. Tarantino Memorial Address was presented by Tamara L. Dickinson, Principal Assistant Director for the Environment and Energy, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Executive Office of the President. Dickinson described the action that the White House has taken to establish a committee, develop a strategy, and implement a plan with clear milestones and timelines in order to prepare for a high-impact space weather event.

Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker, Director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado Boulder, described national space weather strategy as having come a long way but recommended increasing support for the further development of engineering systems protecting Earth's infrastructure. Baker is also a USRA Council of Institution representative from one of the 105 universities that make up USRA's governing body.

Patricia Doherty

Patricia Doherty, Director, Institute for Scientific Research, Boston College, explained that space-based and ground-based technological systems can be affected by space weather and that educating the general public about space weather is critical to preparing for an intense event. Patricia Doherty is also a USRA Board of Trustees member, representing Region I of the nine regional groups of USRA's member universities.

Louis J. Lanzerotti

Louis J. Lanzerotti, Distinguished Research Professor of Physics, Center for Solar Terrestrial Research, New Jersey Institute of Technology. New Jersey Institute of Technology is also a USRA member university. Lanzerotti explained that since the 1840s, space weather processes have affected the design, implementation and operation of many engineered systems.

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson, Senior Analyst, National Protection & Programs Directorate, Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Anderson described the scientific community as having a distinct impact on the way the DHS characterizes and responds to these types of events especially because there is currently no scale for predicting the magnitude of a solar storm as exists for predicting the magnitude of a hurricane. Anderson emphasized the need to develop such a system.

Ralph O. Stoffler

Ralph O. Stoffler, Director of Weather, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. Stoffler described the systems that are operating 24/7 to monitor space weather and emphasized the importance of exchanging information. Stoffler also described how a space weather event could disrupt military missions because GPS is relied upon when operating in a battlefield.

Krishan Ahuja

Krishan Ahuja, Georgia Institute of Technology and USRA COI representative presents a question to the panel.

Symposium second panel

Presentations continued with perspectives from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Left to right: William Murtagh, Assistant Director for Space Weather, OSTP, Executive Office of the President; Therese Moretto Jorgensen, Head, Geospace Section of the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division, NSF; Steven W. Clarke, Director, Heliophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters; Tom Berger, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, NOAA; Devrie Intriligator, Director, Space Plasma Laboratory, Carmel Research Center, Inc. and American Commercial Space Weather Association.

William Murtagh

The symposium concluded with a presentation by William Murtagh, Assistant Director for Space Weather, OSTP. Murtagh explained that the challenges for policymakers will be to set benchmarks for assessing the vulnerability of the technology infrastructure. He summarized a common symposium theme by saying that a strong, public-private collaboration must be established by Federal government, industry and academia in order to build resilience to a space weather event.

About USRA

Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.