2014 Dublin-Harwich Solar Flare

At the Royal Institute of Navigation’s First International Navigation Conference at Manchester in February 2015, Dr Nicholas Ward of the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) reported on the September 2014 Dublin-Harwich solar flare had caused a GPS outage on ships near Dublin and Harwich

Coronal Mass Ejection - September 2014 Dublin-Harwich Solar Flare - Dr Sally Basker

Coronal Mass Ejection – Source: ESA&NASA/SOHO

The incident

The US National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA) reported that the Sun emitted a significant solar flare as well as two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on 10th September 2015.

At 04:00 on 13th September 2015, the master of a ferry approaching Dublin, Ireland reported that his GPS receiver alarmed, the display became intermittent and positioning was lost.

At the same time the Trinity House Vessel Galatea reported a similar problem near Harwich, UK where it was considered unsafe to hold positioning using Dynamic Positioning (DP) as originally planned.

 

The investigation

Dr Ward presented analysis using data from the maritime automatic identification system prepared by Anatec Ltd for the General Lighthouse Authorities.

The first picture clearly shows service degradation of with a total duration of between 5 and 10 minutes.

AIS data outage - 2014 Dublin-Harwich Solar Flare - Dr Sally Basker

September 2014 AIS Outage
Produced by Anatec for General Lighthouse Authorities R&RNAV

The second picture shows the approach of the Brennan into Dublin. The AIS track clearly shows an outage between 04:09:55 and 04:12:17.

Brennan Dublin Approach - 2014 Dublin-Harwich Solar Flare - Dr Sally Basker

Brennan’ approach to Dublin
Produced by Anatec for General Lighthouse Authorities R&RNAV

 

Outcome

It appears that the Dublin ferry was able to proceed into port. However, the THV Galatea had to modify its intended operations.

Comment

Using my GNSS outage segment scheme for this 2014 Dublin-Harwich solar flare event:

  • The source was natural.
  • There was no ‘purpose’ per se but it was caused by the atmospheric environment, specifically the ionosphere.
  • The users experienced an unintentional operational loss due to periodic solar activity.

 

Source: Ward, N (2015) ‘e-Navigation – Position is All’. Proc Royal Institute of Navigation’s First International Navigation Conference, Manchester, February 2015.
Image: THV Galatea Wikipedia
Image: Coronal Mass Ejection, ESA & NASA / SOHO

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