Importance of Space Weather and Ionospheric research
The smooth functioning of the European economy and the welfare of its citizens depends upon an ever-growing set of services and facilities that are reliant on space and ground based infrastructure. Examples include ground-based and space-based radio communication systems, aircraft navigation and private transport via GNSS, and very-accurate-time dependant service industries (e.g. banking). These services, however, can be adversely affected by space weather. Monitoring and forecasting of Space Weather, which is driven by dynamical processes originating on the sun, is critical to the mitigation of adverse ionospheric effects. Ionosphere is a region of the Earth's space environment which is directly affected by Space Weather and in particular by solar variability, near-Earth space dynamics, as well as by lower-atmosphere phenomena. The significance of ionospheric research stems out from the fact that ionospheric plasma, through its interaction with radio signals, is one of the main reasons for the limited accuracy and vulnerability in satellite based systems such as those providing positioning or time estimation and greatly influences radio propagation in HF communication systems. Ongoing ionospheric studies in Europe are focusing on understanding the physical mechanisms of ionospheric variability and associated irregularities and develop methods of monitoring and mitigating the ionospheric induced disturbances and signal errors in GNSS and HF communication systems. However, in Eastern Mediterranean – North Africa region- Middle East region there is a significant deficiency in terms of ground based ionospheric sounders and GNSS stations and consequently of ionospheric measurements and scientific human resources in this research area.