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Monday 08 November 2010
Author: Russell Group

nsurers and their clients have been warned not to ignore the potential impact of a wave of space storms which are due to hit the planet.

 Lloyd’s has compiled a new risk report in on the threat posed by solar storms as a new solar cycle moves into position in 14 months.

 The report which has been produced in conjunction with RAL Space warns a new 11-year solar cycle will begin, bringing with it magnetic storms that could disrupt power supplies, transport and communications systems, causing widespread disorder around the world.

The publication is entitled ‘Space weather: its impact on Earth and implications for business’, and examines the threat for business as the weather in the space around earth nears its ‘solar maximum’ period - when its effects are likely to be most severe.

Trevor Maynard, Manager, Lloyd’s Emerging Risks, said: “Space weather, like ordinary weather, varies considerably in its severity and can occur incrementally or as a one off. This isn’t a new phenomenon, space weather has always existed, but it is our growing dependence on electricity based technology that has exacerbated the threat and made us more at risk than ever. Awareness of the risk is a first step towards managing it.”

It warns space weather damage in one sector could have a domino effect on others, with a magnetic storm potentially wiping out a power grid for months, disrupting electricity and gas. This could then directly affect transport, food refrigeration, clean water supply, communication systems, and could set society back at least 100 years.

For example in 1989, the Quebec power grid shutdown in 90 seconds after a magnetic storm triggered a cascade of operational failures. It took nine hours to resolve the problem, leaving five million people without electricity during the Canadian winter, and costing an estimated C$2billion.

Mike Hapgood, report author and Head of the Space Environment Group atRAL Space, said: “Space weather is a serious risk that has long been overlooked and it’s time for businesses to know the wider impact it can have on them. This report outlines the many ways that these space weather disturbances can disrupt business activities and, most importantly, what businesses can do to reduce these risks."