Research by the UK’s University of Warwick and the British Antarctic Survey has revealed that space super-storms happen once every 25 years.
Analyzing magnetic field records at the opposites end of Earth in the UK and Australia has allowed scientists to detect super-storms going back over the past 150 years.
The results were made possible by the university pioneering a new way of analyzing historical data from the past 14 solar cycles.
Severe magnetic storms occurred in 42 out of the past 150 years and great super-storms happened in six years. The storm may typically last a few days, but can disrupt modern technology.
Super-storms can cause power blackouts, take out satellites, disrupt aviation, and cause temporary loss of GPS signals and radio communications.
Lead author professor Sandra Chapman from the university’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics said, “These super-storms are rare events, but estimating their chance of occurrence is an important part of planning the level of mitigation needed to protect critical national infrastructure.”
Prof. Richard Horne, who leads space weather at the British Antarctic Survey, added, “Our research shows that a super-storm can happen more often than we thought. Don’t be misled by the stats, it can happen any time, we simply don’t know when and right now we can’t predict when.”