MT4SW-Space Weather

Module Provider: Meteorology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Pre-requisites: MT24B Atmospheric Physics
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded: MT3SW Space Weather
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Prof Mike Lockwood


Type of module:

Summary module description:

Understanding of the physics that leads to space weather hazards. Description of those hazards and  the ways that are used to protect ourselves from the risks.


To develop an understanding of the near-Earth space environment and its variability and the hazards that it poses to astronauts, aviation, the satellite and power distribution industries and many others.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

  • Understand the basis of key theorems used to interpret and predict the behaviour of near-Earth space;

  • Understand the origins of space weather disturbances;

  • Have knowledge of space weather effects on modern systems and humans;

  • Critically assess the effectiveness of methods and procedures to mitigate the risks.

Additional outcomes:

In addition, students will:

  • Learn and practice vector manipulation in the use of Maxwell’s equations;

  • Have an understanding of plasmas: the fourth, and most ubiquitous state of matter in the cosmos;

  • Gain knowledge of decadal-scale and centennial-scale solar change;

  • Become conversant with the concepts and details of the heliosphere, magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere.

Outline content:

  • Full lecture notes;

  • A sheet listing key concepts;

  • A sheet giving all key equations;

  • One problem sheet with model answers;

  • Animations and images of space weather phenomena.

Subjects Covered:

  • The Lorentz equation;

  • The meaning of electric and magnetic fields;

  • Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism;

  • Th e induction equation;

  • The convective limit – the frozen-in flux theorem;

  • Magnetic curvature force and magnetic pressure;

  • The diffusive limit – magnetic reconnection;

  • The solar corona and the solar wind;

  • Parker spiral theory of the heliospheric magnetic field;

  • Coronal mass ejections and solar energetic particles;

  • Galactic cosmic rays;

  • The magnetospheric cavit y;

  • Magnetospheric convection and substorms;

  • Particle radiation effects on electronics;

  • Particle radiation effects on living organisms;

  • Induced currents and power grid disruption;

  • Pipeline corrosion.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Lectures, 1 unassessed problem sheet discussed in a problem class.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15
Supervised time in studio/workshop 5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 5
    Wider reading (directed) 10
    Exam revision/preparation 25
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 5
    Carry-out research project 5
    Essay preparation 25
    Reflection 5
Total hours by term 0 100 0
Total hours for module 100

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Report 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

2 hour paper

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

The Coursework will require the student to write an essay applying the science taught in lectures to a space weather hazard of their choice. The student should explain how the science influences what humankind can do in terms the prediction, adaptation and mitigation of the hazard. The student can use all materials – lecture notes, books, on-line material but must include at least one (short) numerical calculation to illustrate the seriousness of the hazard or the scale of the risk.

Formative assessment methods:

An un-assessed problem sheet will be completed by the students and the answers discussed during lectures. Model answers will be provided for this problem sheets.

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

An un-assessed problem sheet will be completed by the students and the answers discussed during lectures. Model answers will be provided for this problem sheets.

50% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

August/September examination only.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 6 August 2020


Things to do now