Solar storms added to national security risks
LONDON | Britain has added volcanoes and solar storms to floods, flu and terrorism on a list of threats to national security.
The highest-priority risks to Britain are pandemic influenza, coastal flooding, terrorist attacks and — an addition — volcanic eruptions in countries such as Iceland, according to the 2012 edition of the government’s National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies.
“Severe space weather” poses a threat to communications systems, electronic circuits and power grids, the list said.
Solar storms — eruptions of magnetic energy and charged particles — are part of the sun’s normal 11year cycle, which is expected to reach a peak next year.
The storms can’t hurt people but can disturb electric grids, GPS sinstruments and satellites.
In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, cutting electricity to 6 million people.
Last week, the strongest solar storm since 2004 passed without major disruptions.