Taxonomy term

solar storm

Benchmarks: May 23, 1967: Space weather forecasters avert war

In spring 1967, international political tensions were high. The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in the space race, as well as a nuclear arms race. The Cuban Missile Crisis, less than five years earlier, was still fresh in people’s minds. The war in Vietnam was escalating, as was the U.S. antiwar movement at home. And in the Middle East, Israel and its neighbors were on the precipice of the Six Day War.

23 May 2017

Scientists map U.S. geoelectric hazards

During solar storms, electrons and protons collide with Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting the geomagnetic field and sometimes creating the flashing waves of colorful light in the night sky we know as auroras. But these same storms — if strong enough — have the potential to severely damage power grids.

19 Jan 2017

Comment: Weathering a perfect storm from space

Severe space-weather events have happened in the past, and they’ll happen again in the future. Will we be prepared?


15 Feb 2016

Comment: Who should be worried about space weather

If a severe solar storm were headed toward Earth, should you worry? And to whom should you turn for reliable information?
25 Jul 2015

Solar storms cause spike in electrical insurance claims

On March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm spawned by a solar outburst struck Earth, triggering instabilities in the electric power grid that serves much of eastern Canada and the U.S. The storm led to blackouts for more than 6 million customers and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages and economic losses. More than 25 years later, the possibility of such a catastrophe still looms, and the day-to-day effects of space weather on electrical systems remain difficult to quantify. Now, a new study correlating electrical insurance claims with geomagnetic data suggests that even moderate space weather may play a significant role in destabilizing the power grid.

09 Nov 2014

The dangers of solar storms: That which gives power can also take it away

Were a massive solar storm to strike Earth, the impacts could rival or exceed the worst natural disasters humans have ever faced. In last month’s issue of EARTH, we explored what is known about solar activity, the sun and its interaction with Earth. This month, we examine the possible effects of solar activity and the vulnerability of power grids and satellites, as well as what is being done to reduce that vulnerability.

21 Jan 2013

How strong was the Carrington Event?

NASA has described the magnetic field of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the 1859 Carrington Event, the largest solar storm ever detected, as “extremely intense” relative to other CMEs. The amount of plasma it ejected is difficult to estimate, but more important in determining its strength is how fast it arrived.

21 Jan 2013