Solar flares, coronal mass ejections and space weather can cause all kinds of trouble on power grids and infrastructure, and now the U.S. government is developing a plan to respond and address those concerns. Welcome to the future, where we don’t just have to worry about terrestrial weather anymore.
As Space notes, the White House has detailed a six-point plan called the "National Space Weather Strategy" that aims to mitigate problems caused by solar flares, which will hopefully help with response time and consequences from future flares, anomalies, etc. Suzanne Spaulding, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate, noted the plan will hopefully provide an “improved understanding” of the risks.
The plan's key points include: 1) Establish benchmarks showing how often severe space-weather events occur; 2) Improve the ability to respond to such events; 3) Reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities to flares and geomagnetic storms; 4) Improve predictions about impacts on critical infrastructure; 5) Improve forecasts of space-weather events; and 6) Increase international cooperation.
Solar flares can cause major problems for the electrical grids here on Earth. A massive coronal mass ejection caused a 6-million-person blackout in Quebec back in the 1980s, and if one of comparable strength hit today, it could potentially cause more than $2 trillion in damages. Whoa.
The initiative is, essentially, a common-sense approach — but it’s a huge step for the U.S. government to actually acknowledge the seriousness of space weather and try to put a plan in place to deal with it.