Aren’t we in interesting times now monitoring “space” weather now? Is it not a fascinating time to be alive?
Industrialized countries can keep track of local magnetism, ground currents, and ionization, and provide the data to researchers. Developing countries are where the gaps are, particularly at low latitudes around Earth’s magnetic equator. With assistance from the UN, researchers may be able to extend sensor networks into regions where it was once politically unfeasible.
Strong solar storms can knock out power, disable satellites, and scramble GPS. “It’s a global problem made worse by increasing worldwide reliance on sensitive electronic technologies.” says Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters in Washington. Guhathakurta states: “By adding space weather to the regular agenda of the COPUOS Science and Technical Subcommittee, the UN is recognizing solar activity as a concern on par with orbital debris and close-approaching asteroids.”
Space weather plays an important role in Earth’s climate. For example, the Maunder minimum, a 70-year period almost devoid of sunspots in the late 17th to early 18th century, coincided with prolonged, very cold winters in the northern hemisphere. Researchers are increasingly convinced that variations in solar activity have regional effects on climate and weather that pay no attention to national boundaries, and thus can only be studied in meaningful detail by an international consortium.
“Space weather is a significant natural hazard that requires global preparedness,” says Prof. Hans Haubold of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. “This new agenda item links space science and space technology for the benefit of all humankind.”
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