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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Thursday, 14 March 2019 16:47

The likelihood of a catastrophic geomagnetic storm occurring may have been over-estimated

Researchers have developed a new model which shows that the probability of a catastrophic geomagnetic storm occurring is much lower than previously estimated; but the risk still needs to be taken seriously.

Three mathematicians and a physicist from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Mathematics Research Centre (CRM) and the Barcelona Graduate School of Mathematics (BGSMath) have proposed a mathematical model which allows making reliable estimations on the probability of geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity.

The researchers, who published the study in the journal Scientific Reports (of the Nature group) in February 2019, calculated the probability in the next decade of a potentially catastrophic geomagnetic storm event, such as the one which occurred between the end of August and beginning of September 1859, known as the ‘Carrington Event’. Such an event could create major issues for telecommunications and electricity supply systems across the Earth.

In 1859, astronomer Richard C. Carrington observed the most powerful geomagnetic storm known to date. According to this new research, the probability of a similar solar storm occurring in the following decade ranges from 0.46 percent to 1.88 percent, far less than the percentage estimated before.