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Proposal for Journal of Space Weather

By Robert Robinson and Paul Song



Space weather refers to conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can endanger human life or health.  Space weather is a cross-cutting effort that encompasses activities ranging from basic research, data acquisition and distribution, model development, operational forecasting, engineering prevention and mitigation, and public outreach and education.  It also links physical sciences extending from the surface of the sun to the surface of the earth.  Space weather efforts nationwide are now being coordinated through a multi-agency program called the National Space Weather Program (NSWP) in the United States.Similar programs have also been proposed or initiated in many developed and developing countries.  In addition, within the US, each of the stakeholder agencies in space weather has developed its own program to address different aspects of the space weather system.  For example, NASA’s new Living With a Star program will provide observations and theory and modeling efforts in support of space weather goals.  The DoD is supporting several Multi-University Research Initiatives whose goal is to improve space weather modeling.  The University Partnership for Operational Support is producing new operational methodologies for improving space weather capabilities.  The Community Coordinate Modeling Center at NASA Goddard is designed to link space weather models, run them in response to community requests, and test the models for eventual transitioning to operational centers.  These activities need to be published for broad readership, but a single publication with the appropriate scope does not now exist.


Because space weather encompasses many communities that traditionally do not work together, an effective forum for communication between the groups is essential.  Many critical activities related to space weather require such cross-fertilization, such as effective transitioning of research advances to operational centers, the linking of predictive models across physical domains studied by different research groups, or the coordination of efforts among stakeholder agencies. Furthermore, the link between the scientists who develop space weather models and engineers who use the results from these models is extremely weak. On one hand, to the scientists, engineers and their needs are dark matters in the universe. On the other hand, most engineers have little idea about the help and information they could obtain if a communication channel or a forum exists. At present, no single journal provides a means by which advances in these different areas can be exposed to a sufficiently broad segment of the community.  For example, AIAA and IEEE journals serve the engineering communities that design systems that operate in the space environment or may be susceptible to space weather, but the readers of these journals are not cognizant of advances in basic research or space weather influences that might allow for better engineering of technical systems.  Similarly, researchers keep up with scientific advances through AGU journals such as JGR and Radio Science, but they do not  read the journals that would allow them to keep up with the technical drivers for space weather knowledge and services.  The Space Environment Center has worked for many years to promote better communication among space weather stakeholders, including researchers, forecasters, and customers.  SEC has recently expanded its forum for such interchanges to a one-week meeting occurring every year in Boulder, and the last couple of years has seen increasing attendance at this workshop.


A dedicated journal to foster communication between those involved with space weather activities is needed.  However, the need to carefully define the scope of such a journal is essential to develop a publication that has sufficiently broad readership without overlap with existing journals.  Here we identify the contents of a space weather journal that would ensure this requirement is met.




The journal would accept the following types of articles.


Basic research papers in which the results of the research may directly and immediately lead to improvements in space weather operational goals.  Because operational goals are different depending on the community that is being served, a well-defined set of goals must be established that addresses all requirements.  Since specific goals are continually changing, the set must be updated on a regular basis.  It is not necessary to establish specific goals for space weather operations.  For example, research may contribute to the prediction of the occurrence of a solar coronal mass ejection, but there need be no distinction between a one day prediction or a one minute prediction.  The requirement for direct and immediate application of research results to operation goals is meant to distinguish results reported in the space weather journal with other research where the connection to improving space weather capabilities is not obvious.  For example, the study of microscale plasma processes may be essential to the understanding of reconnection, which in turn contributes to our ability to predict both CMEs and magnetospheric substorms, but the application of these results to such an improvement is not immediate.  The evaluation of how directly the research will contribute to space weather objectives will be left to the reviewers of the paper, but a working rule might be whether the research result can be incorporated into an existing space weather model, producing a corresponding improvement in the reliability or accuracy of the model.


Papers that present observations and analyzed data for specific space weather events.  These papers would not necessarily contribute to the body of scientific knowledge related to space weather, but would expose the observations in a way that would be informative and useful to other scientists, forecasters, and space weather customers. For example, although an event study establish the time line of several major physical phenomena may have not obvious pure scientific value, it provides a yardstick for forecasters and space weather customers to conduct their own post-event analyses. However, for such a paper, for example, the time line should be based on sound physical methods required by the journal.


Papers presenting new techniques for data dissemination, data mining, and real-time access and control of instruments and observations.  These papers need not present innovative and creative advancements in computer science, but would describe the application of new techniques in improving space weather forecasting systems, as well as for more robust command and control of systems susceptible to space weather effects. A rigorous referee process can ensure the quality of the documentation and references.


Papers that describe the results of modeling specific events, model validation and evaluation, application of metrics, and improvements in techniques for data assimilation

The achievement of space weather goals depends on the development of models to specify and forecast the state of the space environment.  There are many different types of models ranging from those based on fundamental physical principles to those developed solely on the basis of statistical analysis of empirical data.  The description of these models and their application to specific space weather events is an important element in promoting good communication among space weather stakeholders.  The testing of models against standardized metrics would be valid material for the space weather journals, as would the results of comparisons between separate models.  Numerical and computerized techniques for assimilation of data into models would also be acceptable material for the journal.  Also, papers describing progress or success in transitioning of models to operation systems or releasing to public domain would be acceptable.


Papers related to the development and test of space weather indices and proxies.  Space weather operational activities often depend on the use of indices or proxies to parameterize the state of the space environment.  Information about the generation of indices and  the development of reasonable proxies for  geophysical parameters is of great use to space weather forecasters and customers, and are also used by scientists in the development and testing of models.  The space weather journal would be a sounding board for descriptions of activities related to the development, calculation, and use of such indices and proxies.


Papers describing instrument development applicable to space weather.  Although journals exist for articles describing instrument development, many concentrate on new and innovative techniques and engineering breakthroughs.  Papers for the space weather journal would concentrate on the application of existing techniques to improve space weather capabilities, or development of strategies for using or combining instrumentation for more accurate and reliable data acquisition.  Methodologies for deploying low-cost, ground-based and space-based instrumentation for monitoring space weather would also be important subject areas for journal articles.


Anomaly reports, forecasting reports, analyses of prediction accuracies, reports of notable successes and failures, post-event analyses.  These papers would provide a forum for forecasters and space weather systems operators to publicize recent events of interest, both in terms of prediction and assessment of impacts.  These would not necessarily be peer-reviewed, but would be in the nature of bulletins.


Articles on customer requirements and engineeric specifications related to space weather.  These articles would provide space weather customers the opportunity to specify requirements for space weather services associated with new or modified systems and describe engineering specifications of systems that might be susceptible to space weather.  New engineering solutions to space weather hazards would also be of interest.


Educational and outreach efforts related to space weather.  There is presently no journal that will accept descriptions of space weather education and outreach efforts even though these projects are blossoming nationwide.  Advances in curriculum development, web-based educational programs, informal science education through hands-on museum exhibits, and programs aimed at space weather forecasters, customers, and the general public would be included in these articles.


Although there is obviously some overlap between the scope of the space weather journal and other scientific journals, the distinguishing feature of these articles is that they be aimed at a broader audience than articles written for more specialized journals.  The most important criteria for publication is that articles be of interest to the larger space weather community.  Advances in fundamental physics or in engineering or computer sciences would still be reported in other journals where the audience is more tightly focused on audiences that understand and appreciate the technical achievement presented.  In this sense, the space weather journal may improve the quality of papers in traditional journals by raising the standards for scientific and technical advances reported in those publications.  Coordination between the space weather journal and traditional journals during the review process would be critical for the success of the journal.




Contributors and subscribers of the proposed journal should be a fraction of the authors and subscribers of JGR-Space, Radio Science, IEEE, AIAA, Plant. Space Sci., JASTP, Ann. Geophys., and some meteorology journals.


At the beginning of the new journal, it will first invite top authors in each field/subject to write review and introduction articles toward a more diverse audience. IEEE Special Issue on Space Weather is such an example. It invited space physicists to write to the engineering community. Experience (Paul Song was involved in structuring the special issue) indicates that these top authors were interested in writing such review articles for various reasons. One of the major reasons is that they felt the need to summarize their knowledge and make it understandable to various nonexperts whom they deal with every day.  Therefore, we expect that in the first two years, the journal will contain a significant number of such articles. These articles serve two major purposes. First, they set the stage for the journal and calibrate the common language to be used later in the journal. Second, they establish the visibility of the journal.


The volume on Space Weather research has increases rapidly in recent years. Currently, the NSWP funds more than 48 projects. On average, each of these projects publishes 4 papers per year. Other space weather related science projects include SUNRISE, GEM, and CEDAR. The NASA new initiative of Living With A Star will generate a significant amount interest in Space Weather in technology, observation and data analysis for the next decade. The annual Space Weather Week in NOAA attracts more than 200 attendants. Workshops, special sessions, and international conferences directly attributed to Space Weather are more than 5 per year presently. If a small portion of these results is submitted to the new journal, it is modest to expect 10 papers per month. Assuming 10 pages as the average length, 1200 pages per year is sustainable. However, we suspect that our estimate is only the tip of an iceberg. The contributions from fields other than space physics cannot be estimated accurately because they do not currently have such a journal as JGR-Space Physics dedicated to Space Weather.


The new journal is envisioned as a traditional journal with electronic subscription as an option.


As discussed in the last section, in order to accommodate different needs of the readers and authors, the journal should have a section of Communication which contains one-page letters without being refereed.


The Journal will be over-sighted by an Editorial Board which consists of leaders in each of the fields included in the journal. Presently, the Board members are Ginet (Technology), E. Hildner (Forecast), L. Lanzerotti (Technology) B. W. Reinisch, (Radio Science), R. Robinson (Science), G. Siscoe (Space Physics), and P. Song (Space Physics). After the proposal is approved, two more board members are expected to be added in order to provide more balanced coverage. The Editor of the journal will be elected by the Editorial Board and in charge of the day-to-day operations.


Space weather is a long term science-engineer subject as long as human beings continue to utilize and develop technologies and continue space explorations. It will not be modulated by solar cycle, just like the weather forecasts to be important to many people even if not in hurricane seasons, although the event reports may be fewer during solar minimum. We do not think event reports to consist of the major portion of the journal.


It is obvious that some of the papers that are presently published in JGR-Space and JASTP will be submitted to the proposed new journal. We notice that recently JGR-Space has modified its policy to accommodate the diverse needs in space weather. However, in long run, it is impossible for JGR-Space to satisfy the explosive needs from different disciplines. Even if JGR-Space is willing to publish engineering papers on space weather, it is very unlikely for the engineering communities to subscribe it in order to dig out a few papers scattered throughout years.


The authors who publish in JGR-Space and JASTP will have to make their decisions whether to submit their papers to the new journal or to JGR or JASTP. However, since the proposed journal reaches different readership, the authors are most likely to make their decisions based on the nature of their papers and not on the quality of the papers. In particular, best authors know best where the readers of their papers are. We do not think the possibility that authors submit their best papers to JGR and second class papers to the Space Weather journal. We believe that authors will submit papers more toward basic space physics to JGR and those with more direct impact to space weather to the new journal. It is possible that one submits a version with more theoretical expansion to JGR and a version with more practical aspects to the new journal. In this case, the quality of the paper to the new journal is lower. How to handle these cases needs to be learned with real cases. We cannot speculate at this time. However, we believe that most papers in the new journal will not have their mirror images in JGR or JASTP.


Because the NASA's Living With a Star initiative targets space weather monitoring and data collection, it will be an important contributor to the new journal. However, we do not think the journal should be directly attached to any program in order to keep its scholastic nature. It is possible that once a while the journal will have a special section to provide a more concentrated collection of the LWS results for the benefit of readers.