Space weather "storms" can cause electricity to flow in Earth's atmosphere. That can cause unusual electrical currents in the wires that carry electricity to homes. Sometimes space weather storms mess up the flow of electricity in our power system so much that they cause blackouts.
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Image courtesy John G. Kappenman, Minnesota Power, Duluth, Minnesota.
Space Weather Effects on Electrical Power Systems
Space weather "storms" can cause problems on Earth. They can even mess up our systems that make electricity. They can also damage the wires and other equipment used to deliver electricity to peoples' houses. Sometimes really big space weather storms can cause blackouts over large areas. In March of 1989 a big space weather storm hit eastern Canada. Six million people lost their electrical power for nine hours or longer!
Our electrical systems use a special type of electricity. It is called alternating current (AC) electricity. There is another type of electricity called direct current (DC) electricity. Space weather storms can make DC electricity flow in wires. Transformers are devices that are connected to the wires. Transformers work fine when AC electricity is flowing through them. However, DC electricity is bad for transformers. When space weather storms make DC electricity in the wires it can damage the transformers. Sometimes it can even make the transformers explode!
Big space weather storms can damage a lot of transformers. If that happens, electricity stops flowing to homes and stores. That can cause a blackout.
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