Space Weather: Effects on the ground

Airbus A380 in flight. Image courtesy: Colin Forsyth

Space Weather and the dynamics in the magnetosphere can also effect the surface of the Earth and our atmosphere. During space weather events there is a higher than usual flux of charged particles impacting the upper atmosphere. This can subtly change the conditions in the ionosphere and interfere with radio and satellite comunications. These increased particle fluxes are strongest at the poles so can also result in diversion of transpolar flights.

Electricity pylons in Plean, Scotland. Image courtesy: Richard Webb

Space weather events can also interfere with power grids. The interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere can make the Earth's magnetic field oscillate. Oscillating magnetic fields can generate electric currents, which in the case of Earth's magnetic field can then flow in power grids. If this happens without warning, the extra current can sometimes overload the grids as happened in Quebec in 1989.

It is only by properly understanding the magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind that we can accurately predict and mitigate the effects of space weather on our society.

Page last modified on 08 sep 11 13:45