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Met Office To Use MongoDB For Space Weather Forecasts

The sun, courtesy of the Met Office
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The open source NoSQL database will help predict solar flares

The UK’s Met Office has chosen open source non-relational database MongoDB to process huge amounts of data from outer space and turn it into useful space weather forecasts.

The government agency said the project will help predict events like Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar flares, which could have an impact on national infrastructure.

In the nearest future, real-time space weather information and predictions will also be made available to the general public.

Cloudy with a chance of solar flares

According to a 2012 government report, severe space weather could have moderate to significant effects upon a range of technologies and infrastructure, including communications systems, satellites, electronic circuits and power grids.

ENLIL CME monitor, courtesy of the Met OfficeAn example of ‘worst case scenario’ of such weather is the 1859 ‘Carrington event’. Widely considered to be the most powerful solar storm in recorded history, it resulted in widespread failure of telegraph systems, with magnetic activity on Earth so high that Aurorae were seen over the Caribbean.

To predict space weather, the Met Office has partnered with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UK Space Agency, the British Geological Survey and several other organisations. Next, it needed tools to store and analyse all of the collected data.

MongoDB, developed by 10gen, is one of the leaders in the emerging NoSQL movement, which rejects the orthodox approach of relational databases. NoSQL databases are not built on tables, and tend not to use structured query language to manipulate data, which allows for more flexibility.

“Since the start of this project, the Met Office was challenged with bringing together large volumes of data from all the various monitoring assets used for space weather monitoring and forecasting – which is no small task. We needed a platform to aggregate data in a speedy, scalable and flexible manner. We considered a number of non-relational and traditional relational databases, and MongoDB ticked all the boxes,” explained James Tomkins, Met Office portfolio technical lead.

“The Met Office performs a vital service that we all depend on. This is a great example of how NoSQL databases are playing a vital role in turning vast amounts of data into useful intelligence that helps the government and a number of industries that need to make decisions based on space weather predictions,” said Joe Morrissey, VP of EMEA at 10gen.

The forecasts are expected to help all stakeholders better understand and respond to space weather threats. They should be of special interest to the Armed Forces, satellite operators and the energy and aviation industries.

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