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In 1989 a space weather storm caused an electrical blackout in Canada. The black area on this map shows where people lost their electrical power for many hours.
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Image courtesy of M. A. Shea, Geophysics Directorate, Phillips Laboratory.

Power Blackout Caused by Space Weather Storm

Did you know that a storm in space could cause the lights to go out in your house? That's what happened to people in Canada in 1989.

In March 1989 a space weather storm hit Earth. It caused an electrical blackout over a large area. Six million people in eastern Canada lost electricity for 9 hours or more.

The space weather storm made strong electrical currents in our atmosphere. Some of that electricity caused currents to flow in wires in our electrical power system. That extra surge of electricity damaged some kinds of equipment. A major transformer was destroyed. That caused the whole electrical system to "go down". Lots of people lost power for many hours.

The blackout in Canada cost a lot of money and was dangerous. Scientists are trying to learn how to predict big space weather storms better. That could help prevent blackouts like the one in Canada.

Last modified February 17, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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