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The Global Assimilation of the Ionospheric Measurements model and other technologies being developed by the Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences and the USTAR Space Weather Center will have impacts beyond radio and satellite communications.

Using space weather technology to forecast solar storms, airplanes can fly over the Earth’s polar regions and maintain HF radio communication, an advancement that provides significant savings in fuel costs and results in shorter flight times.

Forecasting solar storms before they happen is critical to polar flights, as disturbances require landing and refueling interruptions to compensate for the extra miles required in-air as the plane travels around, instead of through, the region—an interruption that costs airlines $100,000 or more per incident.

Mitigating solar storms’ impact on communication and GPS systems will allow more planes to be flown at one time, an advancement that will boost the aviation industry. “There are about 6,000 planes being flown in the U.S. each morning,” said Schunk. “Using the GAIM model to alter incorrect GPS information, planes can be flown closer together—an advancement that will translate into a reduction in airport delays and can have an impact on international travel as countries around the globe establish better air traffic control systems,” making travel safer, more economical and more efficient for the consumer.