It doesn’t normally take up space on primetime news, but space weather affects life on Earth in more ways than one. What we call space weather refers to events on the sun that can disrupt Earth’s communications, overload power grids, become potentially hazardous to astronauts, and affect weather patterns, according to NASA.
|Image source: SpaceNews.com|
Accelerated particles from the sun as well as other galactic sources continue to bombard Earth. Space weather storms can disrupt and damage modern and technologically complex systems, such as communications, transportation, and electrical power systems. Space weather can also change Earth’s weather and climate, although there isn’t comprehensive knowledge on this influence yet.
The planet’s magnetic field serves as its radiation shield. The magnetosphere keeps most of space weather effects where they should be -- safely out in space. Some radiation, however, are able to reach orbiting satellites and astronauts, as well as people inside aircraft and sometimes even those on the ground. Energetic particles, too, can destroy satellites and reduce their intended lifespans.
NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) is a spacecraft carrying nine instruments, each designed for observing various aspects of the solar and galactic environment. It detects information on the energy, speed, and magnetic field of every solar disturbance heading toward Earth, transmitting radio warnings to people up to an hour before their arrival. Scientists, meanwhile, continue to probe space weather’s further impact on Earth and its global climate.
|Image source: Blogs.Nature.com|
Jim Byrne is a weatherman serving a consulting meteorologist for the Weather Channel program “So you think you’d survive.” He is an alumnus of San Jose State University and is an appointed member of the Community Advisory Council for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. Read more on this page.