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Space weather, effects of space environment on human activity

On planet Earth violent weather phenomena such as snowstorms and thunderstorms occur.

Other types of storms can occur in space. They are known as "solar storms" and like their counterparts on Earth they too may cause problems for us humans, especially because we are so dependent on satellite technology. The effects that these "solar storms" can cause are usually only relevant for space-borne systems, but in extreme cases effects may be registered all the way down on Earth.

Space weather definition

Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere due to the Sun and the solar wind that can influence the functioning and reliability of spaceborne and ground-based systems and services or endanger property or human health.

Space weather deals with phenomena involving ambient plasma, magnetic fields, radiation, particle flows in space and how these phenomena may influence man-made systems. In addition to the Sun, non-solar sources such as galactic cosmic rays can be considered as space weather since they alter space environment conditions near the Earth.

Space weather effects on earth

In our economy today, numerous sectors are potentially affected by space weather:

  • space-based telecommunications
  • broadcasting
  • weather services
  • navigation
  • power distribution
  • terrestrial communications, especially at northern latitudes.

The effects of space weather are observed in the degradation of spacecraft communications, performance, reliability, and lifetime.

In addition, increased radiation due to space weather may lead to increased health risks for astronauts participating in manned space missions. The aviation sector may also experience damage to aircraft electronics and slightly increased radiation doses at aircraft altitude during large space weather events.

Space weather effects on the ground can include damage and disruption to power distribution networks, increased pipeline corrosion and degradation of radio communications.

Space weather can influence the functioning and reliability of spaceborne and ground-based systems.