Hot weather vs space weather

Space weather

As hot weather took its toll on the UK this month, with grass fires, mountain blazes and even premature deaths, the Met Office this week spoke about other risks weather conditions could have on our lives. But not your normal weather – space weather.

There is a difference you see. While weather focuses on the state of the atmosphere, space weather looks at all forms of energy capable of travelling from earth and space.

Space weather, which was recently recognised as a major risk by the UK government, can cause infrastructure including electricity grids, satellites, GPS and mobile communications to go offline temporarily or altogether.

James Tomkins, data services portfolio technical boss at the Met Office, explained to CBR: "Impacts could be wide ranging from small scale interference of radio of GPS signals to large scale blackouts of whole countries in extreme events.

"Predictable scenarios might involve damage to satellites, risk of increased radiation exposure to astronauts of aircraft near the poles. Longer events may have a sustained impact of GPS and communications equipment."

The 1989 geomagnetic storm is a key example, which caused a major failure of a hydroelectric generator in Quebec, cutting power for nine hours.

Future events are expected to create even stronger disruptions and that’s why the Met Office has teamed up with MongoDB to provide a data management tool designed to alleviate risk and make predictions about space weather.

"NoSQL databases are playing a vital role in turning vast amounts of data into useful intelligence that helps the government and a number of industries that need to make decisions based on space weather predictions," said Joe Morrissey, VP of EMEA at MongoDB.

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