Recent Events

Geomagnetic Storms: The April Global Risk Network Web Forum

April 19, 2012 11:58 AM

The April Web Conversation for members of the Global Risk Network will focus on the risks of geomagnetic storms.

Topic: Geomagnetic storms
Date: Wednesday, April 25th
Time: 11:00am-12:30pm EST

Expected Participating Experts
-Lilly Gilmour, Deputy Branch Chief, Strategic Risk Analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
-John Kappenman, Owner of Storm Analysis Consultants
-Scott Pugh, Interagency Programs Project Manager, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Geomagnetic Storms: This component of space weather has the potential to disturb electrical power as well as satellites, power grids, and radio communications that we rely on for navigation, monitoring, and communication. Geomagnetic storms occur when the sun produces large eruptions of plasma and magnetic fields, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). When CMEs go towards Earth, they create disturbances with Earth’s electromagnetic field, which in turn disrupt the above-mentioned infrastructures. Three major geomagnetic storms to date that have caused disturbances: October-November 2003 “Halloween” event, Quebec Power Outage of 1989, and the Carrington Event of 1859. Higher latitudes are more susceptible; however, damage from these storms has been caused in South Africa and Japan.

Major infrastructures that can be affected include GPS, which are used by government agencies to carry out their operations. An interruption in this could, for example, affect positioning during deep-sea drilling, causing a drill line to break. Also affected are electric power systems, electric grids (caused by ground currents produced by storms), and satellites can be damaged permanently (although the more likely outcome is signal disturbance).

The original OECD white paper on geomagnetic storms can be viewed and downloaded here.