Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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United Nations Committee adds space weather to agenda

Posted: February 18, 2013

The United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has added space weather to their annual meeting agenda.

"This is a significant development," says Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters.  "By adding space weather to the regular agenda…the UN is recognizing solar activity as a concern on par with orbital debris and close-approaching asteroids."

Unlike earth weather, which has wind and rain, space weather has radiation storms, solar wind, flares and coronal mass ejections. As an earth storm can knock down a tree,  "Strong solar storms can knock out power, disable satellites, and scramble GPS," says Guhathakurta.  "It's a global problem made worse by increasing worldwide reliance on sensitive electronic technologies."

AOSS Professor Tamas Gombosi is the director of the Center of Space Environment Modeling at U-M. "Solar storms propagate like a bullet,"  Gombosi told Scientific American Magazine.

Solar storms are a global phenomenon, and they need to be monitored around the world. This is a key problem that the UN committee can help solve, now that space weather will be a regular matter of conversation.

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