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Breakthrough computer model to help NWS provide better space weather forecasts, more targeted warnings
Animation of the new WAM-IPE Model, which is now part of the Space Weather Prediction Center’s suite of forecast tools. Credit: NOAA

July 21, 2021 -- NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) has transitioned a new computer model into operations to increase its understanding of space weather events and improve space weather forecasting capabilities. These advances will help forecasters provide better information to the public about potential impacts from a solar storm and help mitigation actions across economic sectors, including communications, satellite and airline operations, human space flight, and navigation and surveying.

The first of its kind coupled Whole Atmosphere Model and Ionosphere Plasmasphere Electrodynamics Model (WAM-IPE Model) is now part of the Space Weather Prediction Center’s (SWPC) suite of forecast tools and has expanded space weather forecasts and services to include:

  • The first time a forecast model will predict how Earth’s upper atmosphere will respond to solar and geomagnetic conditions as well as the perturbations from the lower atmosphere.
  • Total Electron Content and Maximum Usable Frequency products are now operational. These are key for SWPC’s space weather advisories related to communication and navigation systems for the International Civil Aviation Organization’s global aviation space weather network.
  • A new neutral-density product that could be used by satellite operators and ground-tracking systems for space traffic management. The real-time neutral density fields will be available for orbit prediction and space situational awareness purposes.

“The new model will help our forecasters deliver better and more timely space weather forecasts and warnings, and it demonstrates NOAA’s commitment to advancing space weather forecasting,” said Michael R. Farrar, director, NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Prediction. “The WAM-IPE Model will be an asset as we prepare for an increase in space weather expected during Solar Cycle 25.”

The model will augment the existing WSA-ENLIL solar wind propagation model and the Geospace Model in SWPC operations, adding an important link in the “Sun-to-Earth” space weather modeling continuum. Space weather is caused by a series of interconnected events, beginning at the Sun and ending in the near-Earth space environment. Our ability to predict conditions and events in space depends on our understanding of these connections, and more importantly, our ability to predict the details.

NWS will continue to improve the WAM-IPE Model with plans to work with the larger space weather enterprise to incorporate data from satellites used in the COSMIC-2 and GOLD missions as well as other commercial satellite providers. 

The WAM-IPE Model is a research-to-operations success story, developed by scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and NOAA’s SWPC and Environmental Modeling Center. 

“Our collaboration with CIRES over the past 15 years, has lead to numerous improvements, including our ability to process and maintain enormous amounts of data integral to space weather forecasting, developing an international space weather advisory system, and today, bringing a new space weather forecast model into operations,” said Clinton Wallace, director, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

NOAA plays a leading role in implementing the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan which calls for improved space weather models and forecasts to protect the Nation from space weather hazards. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center is the official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings and alerts. Visit for information.