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Obama Has a Plan to Save Us From Space Storms

The president can't protect us from the election, but maybe he's got some good ideas about space storms.

by Madison Margolin
Oct 17 2016, 4:25pm

The photograph, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, captures a small region within M17, a hotbed of star formation. Image: NASA/Flickr

Bad weather doesn't only only happen on Earth. With talk of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s, Obama just announced a plan for handling bad weather in space that is meant to protect us on earth, and in the great beyond.

Obama put forth a few goals in an executive order in case disaster strikes. He said space weather could threaten entire continents.To minimize the harms, especially in regard to economic and human impact, the government should be able to predict space weather events, alert the public, and execute the necessary response protocols.

For instance, he said in the statement, the Secretary of Energy should test devices to protect and restore power grids if they go down, while NASA administrators must continue to research the relationship between Earth, the sun, and space. Meanwhile, if disaster does occur, the Secretary of Commerce should provide forecasts and warnings, and the Secretary of Defense should offer provisions.

"Extreme space weather events—those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure—could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, health care, and transportation," he said.

Space weather can take the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, Obama explained in the order. They could affect infrastructure systems and technologies, such as GPS and satellite operations.

Read More: Our Space Weather Forecasts Are About to Get Better

It may be uncommon, but space weather can have an impact on Earth. For instance, as Engadget points out, the Solar storm of 1859, otherwise called the Carrington event, happened after a coronal mass ejection—a release of solar plasma and magnetic field—caused one of the strongest geomagnetic storms in history. The storm disrupted telegraph systems worldwide, while spark discharges shocked operators and even caused fires.

That might seem like a lot of preparation for events that don't happen all too often, but as the November election hurls on, Obama can do what he can to save the country from disaster.

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