Space weather predictions proposed by U.P. senator

Space weather predictions proposed by U.P. senator

ISHPEMING — Last week, we brought you a story about how activity on the sun can affect sensitive electronics here on earth. Today, we spoke with U.S. Senator Gary Peters about his proposed Space Weather and Forecasting Act.

Heliophysics researchers from the University of Michigan brought the issue of the potentially damaging effects of an extreme solar storm to the attention of the Senator.

While the odds of a major event occurring may be relatively low, being unprepared could have huge social and economic effects.

“It could shut down the grid over vast amounts of the country,” said Peters. “In fact, Lloyd’s of London believes you could have up to 40 million people without power. They could be without power for as long as a year or two, and the cost could be anywhere from 600 billion to 2.6 trillion dollars. This is something we need to prepare for.”

The bill calls for coordination between agencies like NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. It would also provide for research to improve space weather predictions, which Peters said have been described to him as being at the same level as hurricane predictions from the 1930s.

The bill is getting both bipartisan support and support from the scientific community. It’s headed to the Senate floor, where Peters hopes to get it moving in the coming weeks.