The sun’s ferocity can destroy satellites in orbit and cause power transformers on Earth to burn out. It may also pose risks to aircraft and airline passengers, especially on flights traveling over either the North or South Pole.
During high solar activity, polar airline flights are often diverted to lower latitudes to prevent loss of radio communications and to avoid human exposure to increased solar radiation, which can pass through the aircraft. Each flight can cost up to $100,000 for additional fuel, flight crews, and landings. Solar storms can also affect:
- Magnetic altitude control of satellites
- Computer and computer memory
- High frequency communications used by the military and some airlines
- Atmospheric drag on satellites
- Astronaut radiation dosage and safety
- GPS signal transmission and reception
- Electricity grids
- Telecommunication satellites and ground cable
Many of these effects are transitory, but they can be very disruptive and potentially dangerous, both to the systems themselves and the nation’s economy. Damage to these systems can also result in secondary effects that can disrupt virtually every major infrastructure dependant on them, including transportation, security and emergency response systems, telecommunications and other wireless networks and electronic equipment.