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What are the hazards of magnetic storms?

Our technology based infrastructure can be adversely affected by rapid magnetic field variations. This is especially true during “magnetic storms."

  • Because the ionosphere is heated and distorted during storms, long range radio communication that relies on sub-ionospheric reflection can be difficult or impossible and global-positioning system (GPS) communications can be degraded.
  • Ionospheric expansion can increase satellite drag and make their orbits difficult to control.
  • During magnetic storms, satellite electronics can be damaged through the build up and discharge of static-electric charges. Astronauts and high altitude pilots can be subjected to increased levels of radiation.
  • Even though rapid magnetic field variations are generated by currents in space, very real effects can result down here on the Earth’s surface. That includes voltage surges in power grids that cause blackouts.

Learn more: Keeping the Lights on in North America