Access to real-time information on ionospheric conditions over Europe , as a requirement for high frequency communication, satellite-to-ground links and solar-terrestrial research, has needed:
- A network of vertical ionosondes involving as wide a European participation as possible to be set up for real-time data access;
- Short-term forecasting algorithms to be developed for foF2, M(3000)F2 and TEC sufficiently robust to predict events up to 24 hours ahead, and even 72 hours ahead to deal with week-end problems;
- A mapping algorithm for interpolation between the stations in the network to be implemented by using the Kriging instantaneous mapping procedure;
- Validation of the mapping and forecasting algorithms.
As a response to these needs, an operational Short-Term Ionospheric Forecasting (STIF) tool for the European region based on continuous monitoring of the ionosphere has been developed and is available on the World Wide Web for interactive use http://ionosphere.rcru.rl.ac.uk/.
It is on-line 24/7 service for radio communications users' that includes: (1) interactive forecast maps of the critical frequency foF2, the Maximum Usable Frequency for a 3000 km range MUF(3000)F2 and ITU-R NeQuick modelled vertical total electron content TEC values over Europe based on ionosonde measurements; (2) real-time dynamic system for monitoring ionospheric propagation conditions over Europe; (3) TEC maps over Europe and 24 hours plots based on TEC evaluation from IGS GPS measurements; (4) real-time European TEC maps and daily vertical TEC single station plots; (5) archive of all data and images; and (6) real-time solar-terrestrial indices and warning messages so that ionospheric and trans-ionospheric propagation conditions are known to world-wide users.