[Podcast] Here comes the sun(spots) — what are the real risks in solar storms?

By on 17 Aug 2023

Category: Tech matters

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From the original at NASA Images.

In this episode of PING, Jaap Akkerhuis (NLNet Labs), Ulrich Spiedel (University of Auckland) and Russ White (Juniper) discuss the issues behind sunspots, ionisation in the atmosphere and their effects on satellite communications and terrestrial infrastructure based on wires in the air — power grids and data services.

In two posts, Good day, sunshine and Solar Storms and the Internet, we’ve highlighted the potential risks from increases in solar activity such as solar flares and the associated Coronal Mass Ejection or CME.

As spectacular as the effects on Earth’s atmosphere can be, the risk of these events is quite high if things line up badly. It’s possible for there to be compounding effects on satellite systems’ orbit, their electrical components, their lifetime in orbit (due to repositioning costs burning fuel to cope with the event) as well as effects on land, such as suspended wires in power grids and data communications delivering voltage ‘spikes’ to attached equipment at the end, as well as along the path.

However, as explored in this episode of PING, the situation is often overblown, and it’s more a story about understanding the risks and being prepared with resilience in systems exposed to that risk.

Read more about solar storms and their impact on infrastructure, satellite communications, and space weather:

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