Severe Space Weather

Space weather, now recognised as a significant natural hazard, has the potential to disrupt many technologies critical to the functioning of modern society.

Extreme space weather events have a low probability of occurring, but with the potential for a high level of impact. We are currently in a seven- year period of solar maximum (high solar activity) which makes sunspots and coronal mass ejection, and thus a severe solar storm, more likely. Though our understanding of the science of space weather is currently limited and we cannot be certain what the impacts of such an event would be, it is now firmly on the political and commercial agenda, both in the UK and globally.

The impacts of space weather

It is known that systems on or near Earth such as GPS and electricity networks are increasingly vulnerable to damage by intense space weather events and that human activities are increasingly dependent on such systems. Mitigating the effects of space weather and emergency planning focusses on two key impacts:

  • Widescale power cuts resulting in damage to transformers on the electrical power grid, some lasting weeks or longer whilst replacement transformers are commissioned
  • Loss of GPS which affects many aspects of industry, commerce, communications and distribution

What you can do

Be prepared for power cuts and disruption to normal services. Visit the Prepared Residents page for more advice.