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Last Post 19 Mar 2019 08:12 AM by  Kris Sigsbee
Solar Storms and Underground Rocks (FB)
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18 Mar 2019 03:57 PM
    Hello scientists,

    Someone read on new National Geographic there is more danger from a solar storm to some cities because of the kind of rocks that are in the ground underneath them. NG said New England, where I live, is in more danger than other places. Can you explain more and let know if I should be concerned.


    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    19 Mar 2019 08:12 AM
    Hello! The article from National Geographic was based upon a research article that appeared in the American Geophysical Union's Space Weather journal in December 2018. The research article discussed the geology related to something that scientists and engineers call geomagnetically induced currents (GIC). When solar storms like coronal mass ejections (CMEs) or co-rotating interaction regions (CIRs) interact with Earth's magnetic field, they can produce a geomagnetic storm. During a geomagnetic storm, the Earth's magnetic field can be compressed on the day side, and there will be enhancements of the energetic particles in Earth's radiation belt. These changes to the configuration of Earth's magnetic field and the ions and electrons trapped in the Earth's magnetic field can generate huge electrical currents in space that travel through our ionosphere and down to the ground. The composition of the rocks in certain areas like New England make it more likely that the electrical currents produced by a geomagnetic storm will produce geomagnetically induced currents in electrical power transmission lines. An example of this is the extreme geomagnetic storm on March 13, 1989 that caused the collapse of the Hydro-Québec power grid in a matter of seconds , leaving six million people without power for nine hours. GICs can also increase the rate of corrosion the metal pipelines that carry natural gas or oil, and reduced the functional lifespan of the pipeline. Since 1989, scientists have been working to understand how GICs are produced, where GICs are more likely to occur due to the local geology, and the physics of geomagnetic storms. Electrical engineers have been developing improved systems to protect the electrical power grid and pipelines from damages caused by GICs. NOAA, the government agency that produces weather forecasts, also has a space weather forecast to help power companies plan ahead for geomagnetic storms. You can see the current space weather forecast here: https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/
    While GICs are a serious problem, you personally do not need to worry about them, unless you decide to pursue a career as a scientist who studies geomagnetic storms or an engineer who works in the electrical power industry.