Space Weather Forecast for High Latitudes

From NOAA comes this alert about space weather:

Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities 16 Mar-18 Mar

A. Middle Latitudes
Active 30/30/30
Minor Storm 20/35/10
Major-severe storm 05/20/01

B. High Latitudes
Active 15/05/15
Minor Storm 15/20/30
Major-severe storm 10/70/40

It is mostly interesting to people who live in the high latitudes on March 16, 17 and 18. If you live in the region affected by upcoming space weather, consider the following from the U. S. Navy:

Most operational systems can withstand certain levels of disturbances in the magnetosphere and ionosphere, but large geomagnetic storms can cause deleterious effects on space- and ground-based installations. The manifestations of storms are strong deviations in the Earth’s magnetic field from the quiet conditions that extend over wide geographic areas: from high-latitude to mid-latitude and equatorial regions. Significant geomagnetic disturbances produce awe-inspiring auroral displays (designated aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere), which have attracted the interest of generations of scientists, but they can also cause disruptive effects such as loss of satellites and failure of communications networks and electric power grids.

In this forecast, the numbers are percentages separated by “/” meaning that each number is a prediction for a specific day.  In this case it means the high

Space Weather includes Geomagnetic Storms cause beautiful light displays.latitudes will have a 10% chance of a major storm on the 16th, a 70% chance on the 17th, and a 40% chance on the 18th day of March.  People living in high latitudes may experience some communications issues such as static on the lines and temporary loss of service along with a beautiful night sky display.  Heck, tomorrow turn off the cell phones and go lay under the night sky and watch the show.



“Geomagnetic Storms.” GEOMAGNETIC STORMS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.

“NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center.” NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2013

Space Weather – Update

Having read the NOAA space weather reports for a while, one thing never changes.  They are SO boring!  For the most part, they boildown to “everything is OK”.  Then once in a while it says something like aircraft in certain regions will experience high levels of radiation.   Most people know commercial aircraft doesn’t fly in those regions very much.

Flight Map

Nothing illustrates that more than a map of global flight paths like this one found on Crude Oil Peak. The people most at risk are astronauts because they are more likely to be exposed and are outside the protection of the earth’s atmosphere.  We just never think about those things, even though we learned them in school, or should have.

But what is most important about the space weather forecasts is that while even in its experimental stages, it works.  The reports cover three to seven day outlooks based on what is observed on the solar disk.  As the technology improves it might become as important as the weather forecasts.  People might even know in advance when to turn off their electronic devices.  It’s going to be interesting to watch this technology develop into something we can use as easily as we use the nightly weather report.


“Flight Disruptions in Europe a Foretaste for Period of Oil Decline.” Weblog post. Crude Oil Peak RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

“NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center.” NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

Emergency Preparedness: How Prepared is Your Community?

As long as I can remember governments at all levels have had an emergency preparedness plan.  I remember those early grammar school years when Air Raid Drill-Life Mag about 1942 Descend to Basement Bomb Shelterthe nuclear war sirens would sound and we would all walk single file behind the teacher out of the classroom, down the stairs, down the long hall and line up against the wall.  When I looked to my right and to my left, the wall was filled with every child from the school.   As we were instructed to sit down “Indian style” we were also told to put our head down and cover our heads.   The teachers all stood in their dresses and sensible pumps next to the the first student in line from her class.  No teacher sat down, nor covered her head.  I always thought they were going to die for it.

In later grades we were shown emergency preparedness films.  From this we learned we could get fresh water from the toilet tank.  The films showed everyone going to the local nuclear war shelter.  Then came the local tours.  They were all windowless basements filled with barrels of water and crates of food.  A single bare light bulb hung from the ceiling of each room in the shelter.  It  was clear there wasn’t enough food, water, or bedding for the whole town, even to this grade schooler.

One day, as a young adult, I realized it was all hog wash.  Yep.  The government at all levels, had spend millions of dollars teaching people to run to a shelter where all would be taken care of for them.  By the time I was 18 years old I knew the government, with all its good intentions, couldn’t really protect or help everyone.  The knowledge that it was up to me to look out for myself, and the family I hoped to have, changed the way I thought.

All that has changed.  Or has it?  After looking at the civil preparedness plans of communities around the globe, it’s pretty much the same.  The local government proudly announce on their web sites, on the radio, and on television that they have a plan.  They try to reassure the public that they are prepared for almost every possible event, even a dirty bomb.  While they offer words of comfort to citizens, they don’t tell people what events they are not prepared.  The list… dirty bomb, check…. tornadoes, check…. blizzards, check…. earthquakes, check…. and so it goes.  There are rumors that governments have begun implementing plans to protect certain things from possible EMP events and major solar events.

But, let’s face it.  No public entity can truly prepare for a long term situation.  What they want is for people to go about their lives in a confident manner believing there is a safety net in case it should all go south in a handbag.  Believing that is like believing the kid in the desk next to yours really wants to do your homework.


Space Weather Announcements

The sun as space weather predictions are made.The government, in conjunction with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce sector of society, provides space weather alerts, reports and forecasts, just like they do for weather in our atmosphere.  The data is fairly difficult to find, sort and interpret into usable information.

The problem with space weather is that for some events there is only a 20 minute warning, but many other events are predicted for the next three days.  When you think of it, a three day warning is enough for the prepared person who knows enough to pay attention to the warnings.  Unfortunately, if an event is going to be severe or catastrophic, three days in advance is too little time to prepare.  It’s not a matter of “if” there is an event.  It is a matter of when.

For example, over the next three days (January 18 20, 2013) it is predicted that people in northern Michigan and Maine will be able to see an aurora.  Those of you who own spacecraft or satellites located above those areas might want to move them or they may sustain some minor issues.  Minor issues to me can be just as much of a PIA as major issues.  The power grid in that local region?  Some weak fluctuations can occur.  So, make sure you have a surge protector on all your electric outlets.

Let’s Talk About Glorious, Sometimes Dangerous, Sunshine

Whether you want to call it solar wind, solar radiation, or a solar flare, there is a great deal to be considered if you are prepping for a geomagnetic event. When one realizes the seemingly limitless power of the sun you have to take a step back and wonder if a geomagnetic storm is the one event that everyone should prepare for as if they expect it to happen tomorrow.

Geomagnetic storms are increasing in frequency and severity even as I write this. The government has created special tools that any user can use to monitor the activities of the sun. Geomagnetic-Storms-effects-space-weather-technologyWhile the instrumentation used to collect and interpret the data is quite complicated, the reporting features used by NOAA are as simple as clicking a few check boxes.  Now, solar activity is monitored like the weather.

When insurance companies like Aon Benfield begin producing products to insure the losses of their customers because a geomagnetic storm caused severe damage,we should pay attention. While Aon Benfield believes that the risk is small they believe it is a viable market because the damage would be severe and have far-reaching consequences for both industry and the economy.   Aon Benfield has determined that the graphical representation of the risk is pear-shaped. This means they believe the likelihood of a geomagnetic event has a relatively low probability, but a high consequence.  Most likely, a solar event will cause damage in a localized area, much like a blizzard or hurricane.  Such a situation happened some years ago in Canada causing people in the local area to be with out power for a few days.

In the past insurance companies have covered damages to property as it normally occurs.  Except, in some incidents where they have been allowed to call an incident an act of God. An act of God is considered non-insurable. An example of such an event may include a cow standing in the middle of the road, in the dark of night, and someone would hit it with their car.  Most locations have since legislated that insurance companies must cover such things. The act of God clause still exists along with some added things such as government, military and terrorist act exclusions.

Another example of how an insurance company may or may not cover damages to property is mold. When toxic mold first became known as a danger to health and structure, people had to sue their homeowners insurance company to get them to pay for damage caused by mold. Shortly after these lawsuits were made public, insurance companies began specifically excluding mold from homeowners policies because it was a high frequency and high consequence risk. For a while the same companies sold a rider policy to cover mold damage. Today most companies do not ask if you would like mold coverage.

In the same way, many insurance companies may or may not cover damages caused by solar events.This is important to know because many things in your home and car could be damaged and you might want your insurance to pay the cost of repair or replacement.  Because Aon Benfield is launching an insurance program to cover this specific cause of damage, it would be my guess that this event will not be covered and could very easily be considered an act of God and not covered under a standard auto or home insurance policy.

Aon Benfield believes it can only cover minor to moderate solar events and that severe events would be catastrophic beyond the scope of their new insurance policy.  Their plan is to use the fears of people to make money selling policies while they hope there are no solar events.  Since terrorist attacks and military actions are excluded from almost all policies, they would not have to pay out for an EMP event as a part of war.  In the case of a naturally occurring, wide scale event, insurance companies are willing to take the risk that they may not be able to afford to pay out claims and could bankrupt themselves.  As a prepared society, we should measure the risks for ourselves and determine if we need to plan for such an event, maybe even buy a little insurance.