By JIM THOMAS -- Soft Serve News, Posted: November 19, 2013

The Ovation prediction model is nearing the end of its testing and is set to go live by the end of 2013 according to NOAA’s Rodney Viereck, Director of the Space Weather Prediction Testbed.

Ovation is a short-term (30 to 40 minutes) Aurora prediction model developed by Patrick Newell at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. The model generates energy estimates for locations over the Earth which can be translated into probabilities of the Aurora being visible to an Earth observer. Ovation displays these probabilities as color codes mapped over a depiction of Earth:

Ovation forecast model - Northern hemisphere

This gives one the ability to see the near-term forecast as a convenient overlay on a map. Using this tool, Aurora hunters can easily check the Aurora’s intensity in their area. The model also estimates the earth-wide power deposited by the aurora. This is the Hemispheric Power number which ranges from 5 to 150 gigawatts. An always up-to-date Ovation image has been added to the Aurora Borealis Forecast Page of Soft Serve News.

Model has limitations for large magnetic storms

The model currently does not have the ability to discriminate between large storms and very large storms. "A storms with a Kp of 9 will likely look like a storm with a Kp of 7 with the current model,” Viereck indicated. The Kp number is the Geomagnetic Activity Level. The stronger the Aurora, the larger the Kp number and the further south it can be seen.

A newer Ovation model is currently being examined that does not have this limitation. Viereck stated that the data validation testing for this new model is underway and should be completed roughly by the end of 2014.

New Satellite to be launched

The Ovation model and the short-term Kp index forecasts both rely on the aging, 16 year old ACE satellite that is interposed between the Earth and Sun. The satellite is located at the gravitational balancing point between the Earth and the Sun about 1.5 million km from Earth and 148.5 million km from the Sun.

The US Air Force, NASA and NOAA are teaming up to deploy an additional satellite to be positioned near the older Ace satellite, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. The DSCOVR satellite is designed to monitor solar activity that could impact Earth and will supplement the ACE generated data. The launch date estimate is in the early 2015 timeframe.

The NASA satellite will be launched by the Air Force and be administered by NOAA once it has been deployed.