Geomagnetic storm will happen again: BoM

Could affect power grids, sensitive IT systems

The geomagnetic space storm that was created after a solar eruption and affected high frequency shortwave radios across the globe last week will inevitably happen again, warned scientists.

Bureau of Meteorology deputy manager, Dr David Neudegg, said the event was not a one off, with the coronal mass ejection (CME), or a large burst of solar wind, being the biggest of its kind in years.

“We’re on the upswing now from a very deep solar minimum, which is why this particular event has had a lot of interest,” Neudegg told Computerworld Australia. “We haven’t had a CME of this size for about four years.”

While the most recent space storm didn’t affect wireless internet or mobile phones and other devices, Neudegg said the impact of such events on new technologies is often unknown until a space storm takes place.

“Every 11 years when there’s a solar max, there’s always new technologies that haven’t been thought of as a problem before,” he said. “They get more sensitive, so there could be some IT implications that we might not be aware of with radiation and especially sensitive electronics.”

One effect of another storm could be on power grids, with Neudegg saying that the space storm last week would need to be bigger in order to have such an effect.

“You can get big enough electric currents up in the ground that can send power surges through the power grids and knock out the transformers,” he said. “You’d need one a fair bit bigger than one on Friday to do that.”

While Neudegg can only predict when such storms will take place, he did say that there was an overwhelming chance that this will happen within the next few years.

“In the next three or four years, there’s a good chance of getting a few bigger than this one. I’d be surprised if there aren’t a few more this size,” he said.

“Statistically we shouldn’t get too many big events but there is always room for one to come out of the blue. It’s still possible for a big sun spot to appear.”

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags mobileinternetBureau of Meteorology (BoM)power gridsgeomagnetic stormcoronal mass ejection (CME)

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