Severe Space Weather Social & Economic Impacts

Features, Benefits and Application

Enormous outbursts of energy from the Sun during late October and early November 2003 produced intense solar energetic particle events and triggered severe geomagnetic storms with wide ranging effects. This motivated the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP) of the US National Research Council (NRC) to consider the need to assess systematically the societal and economic impacts of what is now known widely as “space weather.”

Severe space weather has the potential to pose serious threats to the future North American electric power grid. Recently, Metatech Corporation carried out a study under the auspices of the Electromagnetic Pulse Commission and also for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to examine the potential impacts of severe geomagnetic storm events on the U.S. electric power grid. These assessments indicate that severe geomagnetic storms pose a risk for long-term outages to major portions of the North American grid. While a severe storm is a low-frequency-of-occurrence event, it has the potential for long-duration catastrophic impacts to the power grid and its users, especially in the cases of damage to large power transformers which take long time to replace.

With respect to the entire grid, remedial measures to reduce GIC levels are needed and are cost-effective. The installation of supplemental transformer neutral ground resistors to reduce GIC flows is relatively inexpensive, has low engineering trade-offs, and can produce 60-70 percent reductions of GIC levels for storms of all sizes.

Additional research work is already under way by the EMP Commission. Improved situational awareness for power grid operators is needed and is readily available (i.e., with an emphasis on disturbance environments/GIC levels instead of ambiguous K/G indices). In addition, regional system operators require initial and continuing training to understand their assigned roles and responsibilities in protecting the power system during solar events using new tools.
Results from a NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Severe Space Weather Events is available for download at





Power. Flexible. Easergy.
BeijingSifang June 2016