Study of Weather Based on the Climate of Alien Planets

The U.K. agency tasked with monitoring the country’s weather forecasts is expanding its

research on how space weather affects Earth and the atmospheres of alien planets around other stars. The U.K. Met Office, which is funded by the government to provide national weather services, is now also planning to supply space weather forecasts for the region. Two teams of scientists presented their research at the U.K.-Germany National Astronomy Meeting held in March in Manchester, England. The Met Office will work with the nation’s space weather researchers to adapt current weather and climate models to incorporate the effects of space weather on a layer of the Earth’s atmosphere called the thermosphere, which is a region about 56 to 373 miles (90 to 600 kilometers) above the planet’s surface. As said David Jackson, a research scientist at the Met Office space weather can affect the aviation and power industries, as well as a whole range of activities that rely on GPS timing and positioning, radio communication or satellite-based observations. Jackson is working to develop more accurate models and ways to forecast space weather, and will present his research at the National Astronomy Meeting on Friday (March 30). According to Jackson to develop a more accurate and useful advanced-warning system for space weather, they need to develop a system of interconnected models that describe the whole domain, the conditions on the sun, interplanetary space, the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, all the way down to the Earth’s surface. The more accurate they can be in representing interactions between the lower atmosphere and thermosphere, the more they can enhance thermospheric forecasts, and thus improve space weather forecast products for users. The Met Office has developed a sophisticated tool for Earth weather forecasting and climate studies. According to David Acreman, a researcher at the Met Office and the University of Exeter most of the hundreds of extra-solar planets discovered to date are gas giants orbiting very close to their host star. These planets are strongly irradiated by the parent star, with one side experiencing permanent day and the other in permanent night. The day side of the planet is much hotter than the night side and this temperature difference causes high speed winds to flow. These winds can be as fast as a few kilometers per second. And while these conditions differ from what is seen on Earth, the Met Office’s models should be able to explain these extremes. The research team is hoping to understand how heat is distributed between the alien planets day and night sides, and to determine what affects the efficiency of this heat distribution. The scientists will also examine the circulation patterns driven by the winds and their effects on the alien planets internal structures.