Space Weather, Earthly Effects
Sunspots, Ion Storms, Magnetic Shields, Plasma Wakefields and More
From the physics standpoint, space weather is the ultimate challenge for our understanding of the heliophysics system - the chain of interacting complex domains ranging from the Sun to the upper mantle of the Earth. Predicting the dynamic evolution of the system is the test for our capacity to capture the key physical processes operating in these domains.
In addition to its fundamental scientific interest, understanding physics is also of increasing importance on earth. As our technology advances we are becoming more and more vulnerable to "space weather." We have witnessed this increasing vulnerability to space weather since the 19th century when it was discovered that the telegraph system was being impacted by geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity. Since then a wide variety of technologies, including radio communications, power grids and global navigation satellite systems also have been found to be vulnerable to heliophysics driven space weather.
The potential for widespread problems in operating modern technological systems during major space weather storms has prompted increasing international policy, science, industry, and public interest in the problem, and finding ways to protect vital systems from the "fury of the sun." In the U.S., the latest high-level attention is centered around regulatory action initiated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and GIC-related elements of the National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan. Understanding heliophysics will lead to the development of novel strategies for dealing with space weather based on advanced warnings about potentially hazardous space weather conditions.
In this lecture I will discuss the key moving parts of the heliophysics system and highlight some of the key challenges in extracting new information about the system. I will then connect the heliophysics to space weather affects on society and discuss how modern technology-dependent society is exposed to the fury of the Sun. I will also discuss some of the latest advances in addressing the space weather hazards and highlight some of the most important U.S. federal government actions on the topic.
About the Speaker
Antti Pulkkinen is currently an Astrophysicist and Acting Deputy Director for the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He also is an Adjunct Professor at the Catholic University of America. Previously, he served as Associate Director of Institute for Astrophysics and Computational Sciences at Catholic.
Antti has long been involved in leading space weather-related projects, often with other scientists in close collaboration with end-users. His work has involved general empirical studies, first-principles modeling of space weather, and investigations of the effects on manmade systems in space and on the ground. He also has been actively involved in promoting research and education in helophysics, launching a new Space Sciences and Space Weather program at Catholic University to educate the next generation of space weather scientists.
Among other awards, Antti is the recipient of a NASA Exceptional Achievement Award, and the International Kristian Birkeland Medal for his efforts to address space weather effects on power grids.
Antti earned a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Helsinki, Finland.