Space weather has economic impacts on earth

Adriene Hill Jan 24, 2012

Adriene Hill: The biggest solar storm in more than six years is blasting the earth with radiation today. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but the solar flares could have economic consequences.

For more we go to Bill Murtagh. He’s program coordinator for the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. Good morning.

Bill Murtagh: Good morning.

Hill: So have you seen any effects of this solar flare event today so far?

Murtagh: Well the solar flare actually occurred a couple days ago. Like regular weather, we get different types of space weather. And we’ve had some effects already. Just this morning, the third piece of the space weather — the geomagnetic storm — began.

And we’re seeing effects such as some of the airlines will change their routes and what not, because they’ll need to maintain communications when they’re flying over the poles. So they’ll re-route flights. And we know they’ll be impacts on various types of communications as well.

Hill: Now was are some of those potential economic impacts of this space weather?

Murtagh: The one we’re most concerned about is the geomagnetic storm can induce electricity right here on earth, and can impact the electric power grid. It doesn’t happen all that often — we obviously know more about it — but it has happened in the past where we had blackouts in various parts of the continent and globally.

So we keep an eye on that because obviously the economic consequences of that — the loss of electricity, blackout — is quite significant.

Hill: Bill Murtagh is program coordinator for the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. Thanks so much.

Murtagh: Thank you very much.

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