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Likelihood of Space Super-storms Estimated from Longest Period of Magnetic Field Observations

8 Feb 2020, 10:00 UTC
Likelihood of Space Super-storms Estimated from Longest Period of Magnetic Field Observations
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A ‘great’ space weather super-storm large enough to cause significant disruption to our electronic and networked systems occurred on average once in every 25 years according to a new joint study by the University of Warwick and the British Antarctic Survey.By analyzing magnetic field records at opposite ends of the Earth (UK and Australia), scientists have been able to detect super-storms going back over the last 150 years.This result was made possible by a new way of analyzing historical data, pioneered by the University of Warwick, from the last 14 solar cycles, way before the space age began in 1957, instead of the last five solar cycles currently used.The analysis shows that ‘severe’ magnetic storms occurred in 42 out of the last 150 years, and ‘great’ super-storms occurred in 6 years out of 150. Typically, a storm may only last a few days but can be hugely disruptive to modern technology. Super-storms can cause power blackouts, take out satellites, disrupt aviation and cause temporary loss of GPS signals and radio communications.Lead author Professor Sandra Chapman (pictured right), from the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, said: “These super-storms are rare events but estimating their chance of occurrence ...

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