Solar Storms Threaten Electrical Power Grid

Storms are brewing about 93 million miles away, and if one of them reaches Earth, it could knock out communications, scramble GPS and leave thousands without power for weeks to months.

It’s what's known as a solar storm, a flurry of charged particles that erupts from the sun. Under the right conditions, solar storms can create extra electrical currents in Earth's magnetosphere, the region around the planet controlled by our magnetic field.

The electrical power grid is particularly vulnerable to these extra currents, which can infiltrate high-voltage transmission lines, causing transformers to overheat and possibly burn out.

Using the latest sun-watching satellites and computer models, scientists have been trying to improve solar storm predictions. At the same time, electricity operators are developing plans for how to respond to solar storm warnings and determine what the consequences for the grid might be in a worst-case scenario.

Learn more from National Geographic.

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