Cosmic rays and space weather: research activities, service developments, and future strategy

Geophysical Center at Dourbes

Geophysical Center at Dourbes

Rue du Centre de Physique 1, 5670 Dourbes (Viroinval) Belgique
Danislav Sapundjiev (RMI), Norma Crosby (BIRA), Stan Stankov (RMI)


Ever since their discovery, the cosmic rays have enjoyed a considerable research interest. From the very beginning of the nuclear era, they have been the only source of high energy particles and have marked the basis for astrophysical research. Despite the advances in accelerators physics and engineering, cosmic rays remain still the only available source of particles in the high energy scale. Cosmic rays are continuously present in our everyday life; in fact, it is estimated that they are responsible for about 10% of the total radiation burden during a lifespan. While on the surface of the Earth we are protected by the Earth's magnetic field, airplane crews and astronauts still need to take into account variations in cosmic ray intensities which can in some cases produce hazardous radiation levels. There are mainly two sources of cosmic rays, galactic cosmic rays that originate from outside the Solar System and solar energetic particles (SEPs).


Cosmic rays have been also linked to possible effects on the climate - the ionisation effect of the primary cosmic rays may influence the cloud formation and therefore the radiation balance of the atmosphere. While this is still a subject of research and intense discussions, it has been already shown, that cosmic rays provide reliable information about the conditions in interplanetary space and probably are an important part of what we call today space weather and space climate. Their intensity has been monitored directly for more than 60 years and the observations show that the intensity of the galactic cosmic rays is as a first approximation constant and is well modulated by the intensity of the solar wind. This has been also confirmed by indirect measurements that allow derivation of the cosmic ray intensity for the past 100 000 years. The periodicity of the solar activity is seen clearly on the temporal intensity of the cosmic rays. The precise mechanism of the interaction between the galactic cosmic rays and the solar wind are still under investigation. However, it has been shown that it offers an interesting method to monitor the condition of the interplanetary space.

Impact and derived services

The advent of satellite technologies and telecommunications requires a reliable nowcast and forecast information of the conditions of the environment where satellites are operating. Recent research has shown that an incoming solar storm towards the Earth can be detected by cosmic ray intensity measurements of the network of ground based neutron and muon monitors. Very intense SEP events can result in ground level enhancements that are observed as an increase in the cosmic ray background level. The first observations show promising results with lead times as long as 30 min. before the actual storm arrival. These observations are being investigated for their potency and reliability for development of a real time space weather forecast service.

Objectives of Cosmic Rays & Space Weather Workshop

The workshop aims at presenting the current research and development activities related to cosmic rays and space weather in RMI, ROB, BISA, Belgium, and abroad. It aims also at exploring the feasibility of establishing an STCE Work Package on Cosmic Rays by first, reviewing the available infrastructure, expertise, ongoing research activities and services pertinent to the subject and, second, discussing how each group can contribute in terms of fundamental research, data management, computer programming support, etc.  

We want to

  • improve our understanding of the interaction of cosmic rays with the solar wind and the interplanetary magnetic field
  • explore the potential of cosmic ray monitoring for nowcasting and forecasting solar storms and solar events
  • development and implementation of nowcast and forecast services
  • development and implementation of a warning system
  • evaluation of the reliability of the warning system
  • service certification and commissioning
  • instruments and infrastructure
  • upgrade of the current neutron monitor, construction of a muon monitor,
  • join international data centres and networks.



is free. Deadline May 10, 2016.


Transport from ROB to Dourbes can be arranged. Contact petra.vanlommel at

  • Alessio Parisi
  • Alexandre Rusanov
  • Ali BenMoussa
  • Bulbul Jan
  • Christian Muller
  • Christian Steigies
  • Danislav Sapundjiev
  • Erwin De Donder
  • Francois Humbled
  • Jan Janssens
  • Jean Claude Jodogne
  • Johan De Keyser
  • Koen Stegen
  • Mark Dierckxsens
  • Olivier Van Hoey
  • Petra Vanlommel
  • Praveen Pandey
  • Ronald Van der Linden
  • Samuel Gissot
  • Sophie Chabanski
  • Stan Stankov
  • temitope oluwadare
  • Tobias Verhulst
    • Welcome

      Incl (self-)introduction of the participants

      Convener: Stan Stankov (RMI)
    • A brief history of the cosmic ray monitoring at RMI
      Convener: J.C. Jodogne
    • Cosmic Rays – introduction and research topics
      Convener: D. Sapundjiev
    • The Neutronmonitor database (NMDB) and its applications to space weather
      Convener: C. Steigies
    • Characteristics of solar events that produce GLE events
    • 12:30 PM
    • Visit to the neutron monitor facility
    • GLE alerts as input for SEP forecasts
      Convener: M. Dierckxsens
    • Cosmic rays and dosimetry at aviation altitudes
      Convener: E. De Donder
    • Radiation hazards for astronauts: the part of cosmic rays
      Convener: Ch. Muller
    • Discussion