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Tag archives: space weather

Space weather: it’s all about impact

By Susan Curtis

Extreme ultraviolet image of a tangle of arched magnetic filed lines in the Sun's corona, taken in January 2016 by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Dangerous affair – an extreme ultraviolet image of a tangle of arched magnetic filed lines in the Sun’s corona, taken in January 2016 by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Courtesy: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA)

We all love a good disaster movie, but when it comes to real life it’s all too easy to downplay a dangerous but distant threat. Many people choose to live on active volcanoes, the citizens of San Francisco know that “the Big One” could strike at any moment, and yet they believe that the benefits of living in those locations outweigh the risk of a severe event happening in their lifetime.

The same dilemma faces the community of scientists, engineers and policy-makers who are working to understand the impacts of space weather – changes in the Earth’s environment that are largely are driven by physical processes originating from the Sun. Space weather has the potential to disrupt or even damage critical infrastructures on Earth, such as the power grids, aviation routes and communication systems that modern societies depend on, but the last notable event dates back to 2003.

That’s why Mike Hapgood, who heads up the Space Weather Group at RAL Space, part of the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, has written a new, free-to-read Physics World Discovery ebook called Space Weather. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight what space weather is really about, and to show how we are linking our scientific knowledge to a better understanding of the impacts on society,” he comments.


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