Vulnerable to space weather


field lines


Solar flares
These explosions on the sun’s surface occur without warning and can launch huge amounts of X-rays, other radiation and particles into the ionosphere, the outer edge of Earth’s atmosphere.

Coronal mass ejections
These slow-moving “space hurricanes” occur when the sun ejects part of its outer atmosphere.

Solar winds
Streams of gas particles and magnetic clouds pour from the sun’s surface in all directions.

Earth’s magnetic field
It is least protective around the polar regions, so those areas are most easily disrupted by solar weather.

Satellites and GPS devices
Radiation storms can befuddle satellites, delaying or garbling radio waves and mucking up sensitive electronic controls.

International space station
No humans are closer — therefore more vulnerable — to space radiation than residents of the space station.

Oil pipelines
Aboveground pipelines can conduct stray currents and become corroded. Alaska’s lines are vulnerable because they’re so near the North Pole.

Power grid
Power lines can conduct currents that develop in the ionosphere. The grid is so interconnected that a few blown transformers can cripple a large area.

Aircraft communication
Transmissions that depend on low-frequency radio waves become unreliable, especially near the North Pole.

Water supply
Because water processing and distribution depend so heavily on electricity, a major loss of power would affect water delivery within days.

Note: Sun and Earth are shown to approximate scale,

but distance is not to scale.