What is SuperDARN UK?

SuperDARN UK is a new initiative to create a unified national facility to strengthen UK leadership in upper atmospheric science and provide new cross-disciplinary research opportunities to the UK science community [find out more]

The facility currently comprises three upper atmospheric radars operated by the British Antarctic Survey and University of Leicester – at Goose Green in the Falkland Islands, Hankasalmi in Finland, and Þykkvibær in Iceland. In 2011 we aim to inherit a radar at Stokkseyri in Iceland to be run by a new UK SuperDARN group at Lancaster University, and in 2013 we expect to add another radar at Halley in Antarctica (which was temporarily decommissioned due to the re-building of the station there).

Fields of view (blue shaded segments) of the 3 current and 2 proposed SuperDARN UK radars in Finland and Iceland (left) and in Antarctica and the Falkland Islands (right) showing how together they cover extended regions of the Atlantic longitude sector in opposite hemispheres. Coverage is extended still further by the other SuperDARN radars (blue open segments). Dashed lines are contours of constant geomagnetic latitude at 10° spacing.

These radars are part of the wider international SuperDARN programme currently consisting of 22 similar radars that run continuously to study the upper atmosphere. The main focus has been the Arctic and Antarctic, although recently radars have been deployed at mid-latitudes. In the next 5 years SuperDARN is expected to grow to 36 radars, operated by 15 institutes in 9 different nations.

The UK has played an influential role in the creation and success of SuperDARN. The British Antarctic Survey have operated a radar at their base at Halley in Antarctica since 1988, funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council. This mirrored a similar American radar at Goose Green in Canada, which together were the progenitors of SuperDARN. The University of Leicester subsequently constructed two Arctic radars at Hankasalmi in Finland and at Þykkvibær in Iceland in 1994, funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. Together with other radars built at this time, they led to the formal creation of SuperDARN.

Due to the rebuilding of the Halley base, the Halley radar temporarily ceased operations in 2008, but a new radar has been built in 2010 at Goose Green in the Falklands Islands in a joint project between BAS and Leicester, funded by NERC.