The world is not ready for the next big storm from space, most scientists agree.
Nine out of ten space weather experts say that without accurate space weather forecasting, Earth will suffer severe damage to its infrastructure. Of the 144 scientists surveyed about the risk of geomagnetic storms, just over half said current forecasting capabilities are not good enough to prevent space weather from damaging homes.
Conducted by the University of Reading and Apollo Academic Surveys, the study showed that 90% of respondents thought that a major storm in space would cause damage to satellites and lead to widespread communication issues. Four out of five scientists would expect to lose power due to a major disturbance from space.
Dr. Luke Barnard, a space weather expert at the University of Reading who co-created the survey, said, “Space storms can seriously affect our technology-based way of life. The loss of electricity can last from a few hours to a few days. Getting around in cars and planes can be very difficult if the GPS is difficult due to faulty satellites and some radio communications fail.
“Most space weather experts think we are not sufficiently prepared to avoid the effects of the worst solar storms. Scientists generally agree that we need to get more observations of the sun and space to help understand and predict space weather, and to improve the computer models we use to predict it.
Geomagnetic storms occur when particles and a magnetic field from the sun—known as the solar wind—contact Earth’s own magnetic field. These storms are responsible for creating the intense Northern Lights, but they can also damage technologies on the ground—such as power grids—and in space.
The space weather experts surveyed were asked a variety of questions about the dangers posed by geomagnetic storms. See the full set of results here.
- 51% believe that the size of future geomagnetic storms could surpass even the largest storms recorded in the past two centuries, including the historic 1859 Carrington Event.
- Opinions on when an unplanned regional power outage due to space weather will occur next vary, but experts think there is a 33% chance that an unplanned regional power outage will occur in the next 10 years.
- Approximately 40% of participants expressed doubts about the current accuracy of space weather forecasts.
When asked how the $1 billion could best be used to improve space weather forecasting, a large number of experts surveyed suggested placing constellations of small satellites near the sun.
These satellites will provide direct measurements of the solar wind before it reaches Earth, enabling more accurate predictions and proactive actions.
Some say that the fund should be invested in ground-based telescopes for 24-hour space weather monitoring and doing more research and data analysis jobs and projects.
Provided by the University of Reading
Citation: Space storms could cause chaos without forecast improvements (2023, July 25) retrieved July 25, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-space-storms-chaos.html
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