Space weather storms can cause lots of damage to electrical power systems. That damage can cost lots of money. Electrical engineers are learning better ways to protect these systems.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy L. J. Lanzerotti, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Inc.
The Cost of a Blackout Caused by Space Weather
In 1989 a space weather storm caused an electrical blackout over a large area. Six million people in eastern Canada lost electrical power for 9 hours or longer.
The blackout of the HydroQuebec power grid taught us a lot about how much a solar storm can cost. HydroQuebec, the electrical utility company, lost more than $10,000,000. The blackout cost HydroQuebec's customers somewhere between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. In some ways this storm was as bad as a hurricane or earthquake in terms of the cost and the number of people affected.
Loss of money wasn't the only problem. Loss of electricity shuts down lots of other things, like public transportation and alarms for security systems. A blackout during cold winter weather could be dangerous for many people. It can take several hours or even days to start electricity flowing again after a blackout.
Scientists are trying to learn how to predict big space weather storms better. That could help prevent blackouts like the one in Canada. That would save a lot of money.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
As a strong hurricane heads towards the coast, people prepare - boarding up houses, packing the car, and evacuating. These storms can spell disaster for people in hurricane prone areas, so they are taken...more
The expression “on solid ground” is often used to describe something as stable. Usually the solid ground underfoot seems very stable. But sometimes it is not. "The ground seemed to twist under us like...more
Sometimes a whole electric power system shuts down. This can happen after a strong space weather storm. It is hard to get the whole system running again after it has been shut down all the way. The main...more
There is a giant magnetic "bubble" in space around the Sun. That "bubble" is called the heliosphere. In a sense, we Earthlings live within the outer atmosphere of our Sun. The solar...more
Earth's magnetosphere shields our planet from most of the solar wind. Some solar wind particles do leak in and combine with ions escaping from the top of Earth's atmosphere to populate the magnetosphere...more
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,...more
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