Early on Jan. 29, 2024, the sun produced an M6.8-class solar flare. It's visible in the upper right of this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA screenshot

BALTIMORE – Funding for space weather research and operations has grown in recent years.

Still, it remains challenging to convey the potential danger of a significant space weather event to lawmakers and the public “because if we do our job, you are not going to see the impact,” Ken Graham, National Weather Service director and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assistant administrator, said Jan. 29 at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting here.

Unlike hurricanes and tornadoes, space weather events don’t often leave a trail of damage.

“We need a big visible event on Super Bowl Sunday that wipes out the satellites,” joked Nicola Fox, NASA associate administrator for science. “And now that the Ravens aren’t in the Super Bowl, bring it on.”

Even without widespread appreciation of space weather phenomena, NASA and NOAA are working with the Defense Department, the National Science Foundation, the European Space Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and others to establish a robust space weather program.

It remains difficult, though, to obtain sufficient funding for these endeavors.

“We have 50 years of geostationary observations and 60 years of low-Earth orbit observations with an established user base, customer base and partnerships,” said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s satellite and information service. “NOAA is starting from nothing in establishing a portfolio approach for space weather observations. It is a struggling enterprise.”

Volz added, “I often joke that we’re one major space weather disaster away from a fully funded program. But we don’t want it to actually get to that.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...