Detecting ground level enhancements using soil moisture sensor networks

Hands, A.D.P.; Baird, F.; Ryden, K.A.; Dyer, C.S.; Lei, F.; Evans, J.G. ORCID:; Wallbank, J.R.; Szczykulska, M.; Rylett, D. ORCID:; Rosolem, R.; Fowler, S.; Power, D.; Henley, E.M.. 2021 Detecting ground level enhancements using soil moisture sensor networks. Space Weather, 19 (8), e2021SW002800. 37, pp.

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Ground level enhancements (GLEs) are space weather events that pose a potential hazard to the aviation environment through single event effects in avionics and increased dose to passengers and crew. The existing ground level neutron monitoring network provides continuous and well-characterized measurements of the radiation environment. However, there are only a few dozen active stations worldwide, and there has not been a UK-based station for several decades. Much smaller neutron detectors are increasingly deployed throughout the world with the purpose of using secondary neutrons from cosmic rays to monitor local soil moisture conditions (COSMOS). Space weather signals from GLEs and Forbush decreases have been identified in COSMOS data. Monte Carlo simulations of atmospheric radiation propagation show that a single COSMOS detector is sufficient to detect the signal of a medium-strength (10%–100% increase above background) GLE at high statistical significance, including at fine temporal resolution. Use of fine temporal resolution would also provide a capability to detect Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes (via secondary neutrons) which are produced by certain lightning discharges and which can provide a hazard to aircraft, particularly in tropical regions. We also show how the COsmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System-UK detector network could be used to provide warnings at the International Civil Aviation Organization “Moderate” and “Severe” dose rate thresholds at aviation altitudes, and how multiple-detector hubs situated at strategic UK locations could detect a small GLE at high statistical significance and infer crucial information on the nature of the primary spectrum.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1542-7390
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: GLE, neutron monitor, ground level enhancement
NORA Subject Terms: Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 03 Sep 2021 13:49 +0 (UTC)

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