Solar Events (Space Weather) – Introduction

GOES Solar X-ray Image[5]
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The term “space weather” is a new descriptive term that refers to the variable conditions on the sun and in space that can influence the performance of technology we use on Earth. Extreme space weather could potentially cause damage to critical infrastructure – especially the electric grid – highlighting the importance of being prepared.[1]

Solar activity results in radiation (such as radio waves to gamma rays) and energetic particles (such as high energy protons and electrons) ejected into space. These energetic particles make up the solar wind. Some solar events, when interacting with the Earth’s magnetosphere (magnetic field), can create profound effects. Sudden bursts of plasma and magnetic field structures from the sun’s atmosphere called coronal mass ejections (CME) together with sudden bursts of radiation, or solar flares, also cause effects here on Earth.[2] [3]

These effects may include:[4] [5]

  • Damage to satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning, intelligence gathering, and weather forecasting;
  • Electric power disruptions and outages;
  • Radiation hazards to humans;
  • Climate change;
  • Biological hazards and environmental disruptions;
  • Strong electrical currents driven along the Earth’s surface during auroral events disrupt electric power grids and contribute to the corrosion of oil and gas pipelines;
  • Changes in the ionosphere during geomagnetic storms interfere with high-frequency radio communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation;
  • During polar cap absorption events caused by solar protons, radio communications can be compromised for commercial airliners on transpolar crossing routes.

The 1859 Carrington – Hodgson superstorm was the largest in the last 500 years and such storms appear to occur roughly every 500 – 600 years. Destructive superstorms may occur roughly once in every 100 years. It has been 90 years since the “Great Storm” of 1921.[6]

Solar wind and solar activity are measured by several spacecraft, including the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE). ACE has, in addition to other scientific instruments, a space weather early warning system, located where it provides as much as an hour’s notice of potentially dangerous solar activity.[7]

By checking in with the daily space weather forecasts on Facebook, the everyday effects of CMEs (coronal mass ejections) and other space events can be determined before they disrupt your life in a negative way.



  1. – Space Weather:
  2. NASA – Education Brief on Space Weather:
  3. – Space Weather:
  4. NASA – Education Brief on Space Weather:
  5. NASA – FAQs -Solar Storm and Space Weather:
  6. FEMA – Critical Communications During and After a Solar Superstorm:
  7. NASA – Education Brief on Space Weather:
  8. Image Source: [Accessed March 11, 2014]