Study: Storms in space could mess up Minnesota's power grid


Strong storms in space could knock out Minnesota's power.

That's according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that was published last week.

The study found that geomagnetic storms impact some parts of the U.S. more than others.

The National Weather Service describes geomagnetic storms as disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field. Those storms are what create beautiful auroras, or northern lights.

However, a severe geomagnetic storm could mess up the country's power grid for months and even cause widespread blackouts, the USGS says.

"Resulting damage and disruption from such an event could cost more than $1 trillion, with a full recovery time taking months to years," the USGS adds.

Areas where the northern lights are visible are more likely to be affected, though. The study says the conductivity of rocks in the area also plays a factor.

In fact, Science Magazine says space storms could trigger power surges in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin that are 100 times more powerful than other parts of the country.

You can see the hazard map here.

Scientists hope this information will make it so power companies can better prepare for damaging solar storms, the Weather Channel reports.

How likely is a disastrous space storm?

According to the Independent, a disastrous geomagnetic storm that wipes out power would be considered a "low probability but high-impact event." Meaning, it's not very likely to happen. But if it did, things could be very bad.

The source says it could throw off GPS systems, stop planes from flying, and destroy computer and other electronic data.

A relatively small storm messed with GPS systems in 2011, reports.

National Geographic says that was nothing compared to the solar storm of 1859, which has been dubbed the Carrington Event.

People reported seeing the northern lights as far south as Cuba and Honolulu.

The results weren't so pretty, though.

According to Space Magazine, it fried telegraph lines all across North America and Europe. And if it happened today, it'd cause $2 trillion in damage.

Next Up