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Public Policy and Government Affairs

Space Weather

Space weather entails geomagnetic storms from the Sun, ionosphere disturbances and scintillations and geomagnetic-induced currents. Coronal mass ejections from the Sun and their associated shock waves can compress the Earth’s magnetosphere and induce geomagnetic storms with effects on Earth as well as in local space. Space assets also have to contend with increased radiation levels inside the Van Allen belts around the Earth.

Some of the specific effects of space weather on Earth systems include interference with short wave radio propagation, problems with electric power grids, the decay of satellite orbits and radiation hazard for satellites and for astronauts during some phases of space missions.

Space weather cannot be controlled, but monitoring and prediction can alleviate the danger and disruption that space weather poses. Much of the damage can be
mitigated if satellite managers know a storm is coming. Putting satellites in ‘safe mode’ and disconnecting transformers can protect these assets from damaging electrical surges. Preventative action, however, requires accurate forecasting, a job that has been assigned to NOAA.

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