UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Understanding space weather's threat to the finance industry

3 June 2015

Canary Wharf

The risk that space weather poses to our daily lives has become more prominent in recent years.

Awareness has been enhanced by dramatic solar activity that regularly features in the media and by the inclusion of space weather in the National Risk Register. Attention is now turning to the risks posed to specific sectors and on 27 May UCL held a symposium to examine space weather risk and resilience in the financial sector.

The symposium was attended by financial institutions, government departments and academics.

The participants discussed the origins of space weather at the Sun through the forms of activity known as solar flares, coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events. Historical case studies have shown that these phenomena have a broad range of possible impacts including on our HF radio communications, accuracy and availability of GPS positioning and timing data, spacecraft electronics and national power distribution.

In light of this, the Met Office has established a Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) to provides space weather forecasts. As a major contributor to the UK economy, and a sector that relies heavily on technology, those responsible for business continuity planning in the finance sector need to develop an approach to managing space weather risks. The symposium was developed with this in mind.

Presentations were given by UCL, Goldman Sachs, the Met Office and National Grid and a panel discussion provided an opportunity to understand how the available research and space weather forecasts can be used in a practical way. Space weather risk is normally considered using a reasonable worst-case scenario for an event in the UK, but it was clear during the discussion that more frequent events with less, but still significant, impact should also be considered. And developing forecasts tailored to the finance sector needs will help embed space weather in resiliency planning.

Research at UCL focusses on understanding the science underlying space weather, developing tools to aid space weather forecasting and looking to the future through developing concepts for dedicated space weather monitoring satellites. The symposium was supported by UCL's Vice-Provost Office for Research and was held at the Royal Society.



Lucie Green
UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Deb Baker
UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory


Canary Wharf panorama by Poolski (CC-BY)