Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
Metal pipelines, such as this one in Alaska, are often used to transport oil or gas long distances. Many are located at high latitudes, where space weather can generate strong electrical currents. Electrical currents flowing in metal pipes causes corrosion, making the pipes wear out more quickly.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of Donald D. Rice.

Space Weather Effects on Pipelines

Pipelines for transporting oil, natural gas, and water are often made of conducting materials like steel. Very long pipelines (thousands of kilometers/miles) are used to transport oil and gas at high latitudes, especially in the Arctic. Intense electric currents flow in the atmosphere at high latitudes during space weather disturbances. These nonsteady currents create fluctuating magnetic fields that are felt at the Earth's surface. By the process of electromagnetic induction, fluctuating magnetic fields induce currents in the Earth's surface. In regions with large concentrations of rocks that don't conduct electricity well (such as igneous rocks) the currents find the paths of least resistance and become concentrated in man-made conductors like pipelines. The currents flow between the Earth and the pipeline, causing increased corrosion of the pipeline.

Last modified July 11, 2008 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Hydrocarbons

There is a group of chemicals called hydrocarbons. The molecules of hydrocarbons are made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Most kinds of fuel have hydrocarbons in them. Hydrocarbons store energy. Coal, oil,...more

The Arctic: Earth's North Polar Region

In the Arctic, you will find the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. You will find the geographic North Pole and the magnetic North Pole there; both are in the...more

The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. Here's another picture of how this works. This picture shows where the magnetic poles of the Earth are to...more

Pipelines - Basic Information

The invention of the seamless, electrically-welded pipe in the 1920's which was capable of carrying material under high pressures, enabled the building of profitable pipelines over a thousand miles long....more

Space Weather Causes Currents in Electric Power Grids

Space weather causes electricity to flow in our atmosphere. Sometimes that electricity lights up the sky! It causes the aurora (the Southern and Northern Lights). The electric currents in the atmosphere...more

Space Weather throughout the Solar System

The Sun is huge. It has an effect on things even if they are far from the Sun. The "bubble" where the Sun has an effect on things is called the heliosphere. It goes even past Pluto! The place...more

Space Weather at Earth

Did you know that the Earth has a magnetic field? It's almost as if a giant bar magnet ran through our planet. The magnetic field of the Earth is like a huge bubble around our planet. This bubble keeps...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF