The Northern Colorado Astronomical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the science of astronomy and to encourage and coordinate activities of amateur astronomers.

Download the Current Issue of the “Objective View” Newsletter: December 2016

May 4th, 2017 - Featured Speaker: Dr. Daniel N. Baker

Economic and Societal Impacts of Severe Space Weather

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Speaker Bio: Dr. Daniel N. Baker is director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), University of Colorado – Boulder Campus. He is a Distinguished Professor of Planetary and Space Physics, professor of Physics and Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences . He received his Ph.D. working under Prof. James A. Van Allen. He presently holds Moog-Broad Reach Endowed Chair of Space Sciences at CU. He is a fellow and member of several professional organizations and has received awards for research and lecturing. He has edited eight books and published over 800 papers in the refereed literature. He is has been lead investigator on several NASA space missions including the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, and the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes (Van Allen) mission.

Talk Abstract: This talk describes extreme space weather impacts and their economic and societal costs. Modern technological society is characterized by a complex set of interdependencies among its critical infrastructures. These are vulnerable to the effects of intense geomagnetic storms and solar storms. Strong currents flowing in the ionosphere can disrupt and damage Earth-based electric power grids and contribute to the accelerated corrosion of oil and gas pipelines. Magnetic storm-driven ionospheric disturbances interfere with high-frequency radio communications and navigation signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Exposure of spacecraft to solar particles and radiation belt enhancements can cause temporary operational anomalies, damage critical electronics, degrade solar arrays, and blind optical systems such as imagers and star trackers. Moreover, intense solar particle events present a significant radiation hazard for astronauts during the high-latitude segment of the International Space Station (ISS) orbit as well as for future human explorers of the Moon and Mars. In addition to such direct effects as spacecraft anomalies or power grid outages, a thorough assessment of the impact of space weather events on present-day society must include the collateral effects of space-weather-driven technology failures. For example, polar cap absorption events due to solar particles can degrade – and, during severe events, completely black out – radio communications along transpolar aviation routes. A complete picture of the socioeconomic impact of space weather must include both direct, as well as collateral, effects of space-weather-driven technology failures on dependent infrastructures and services. It is also imperative that we—as a technological society—develop a truly operational space weather observing and modeling system in which the benefits of accurate forecasts are clearly established.

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