Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere protect life and electrical equipment from solar radiation and cosmic rays. Satellite and radar communications depend on the state of the Ionosphere, with errors in GPS location systems found to be up to 20m during geomagnetic storms. Indeed, with our increased reliance on satellite technologies, there is a serious threat from extreme 'Space Weather' events to cause major disruption to global infrastructure. There also appears to be somekind of correlation between solar variability and long term climate on Earth, and as the upper atmosphere absorbs much of the sun's radiation, this makes it an extremely important part of climate research.
Needless to say, there are many reasons why we would wish to study the middle and upper atmosphere. The Atmospheric Physics Laboratory at University College London has a long history of studying the Physics and Chemistry of the Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Ionosphere, and our research is broadly divided into atmospheric modelling and experimental observations. Current terrestrial research projects include the EISCAT radar campaign, the ATMOP orbital program, Space Weather and Climate studies, the ESA SWARM satellite mission and CubeSat mission QB50.