As part of the Canadian Space Agency GO-Canada Science Applications initiative, the GNSS Auroral Space Weather Product (GASP) project aims to create a model of GNSS user effects driven by data from the CSA's GO-Canada data. The model will take input from GO Canada instruments, and return as an output the expected GNSS user effects (anticipated loss of signal, position accuracy, etc.) at a single location. Using real-time data from GO-Canada, we will produce a “nowcast” for a single location and a plan/requirements for expansion to a larger coverage area.
Space weather and its impacts on the ionosphere are driven by the coupled solar wind-magnetosphere system and all of the processes that result in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and other technologies that rely on radio wave propagation through the ionosphere are affected by space weather. These effects can result in loss of signal, loss of position accuracy, and other deleterious effects.
This has been an active area of applied space physics research for decades, and great strides are being made in terms of mitigating those effects (for example new GNSS software/firmware has greatly enhanced the robustness of GNSS accuracy at high latitudes, even in the face of space weather disturbances). However, the most advanced users of such technologies are often the most demanding, and so knowledge of things that affect those technologies (even if those effects are moderate) is extremely valuable. Further, casual users of such technologies are often using older or less expensive equipment the effectiveness of which can be significantly affected by even moderate space weather events. In particular, GNSS satellite communications are most affected by ionospheric scintillations that relate to instabilities due to ionization gradients (associated with particular types of aurora), and/or by absorption that occurs in regions of large energy deposition into the ionosphere by the aurora.
In all cases, reliable real-time (or predictive) knowledge of where the ionosphere will affect such technologies is a matter of safety and security. This topic is of relevance to Canada, owing to our geography which encompasses most of the world’s auroral and polar cap ionosphere (and increasingly a concern as the north opens up to more activity in coming years).