A new report published by NASA details that a Solar Minimum is coming, and it would appear as though the US government is gearing up for space weather events, and disruptions to our infrastructure.
NASA, never a straight answer, publication reads;
Every 11 years or so, sunspots fade away, bringing a period of relative calm.
“This is called solar minimum,” says Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. “And it’s a regular part of the sunspot cycle.”
The sun is heading toward solar minimum now. Sunspot counts were relatively high in 2014, and now they are sliding toward a low point expected in 2019-2020.
While intense activity such as sunspots and solar flares subside during solar minimum, that doesn’t mean the sun becomes dull. Solar activity simply changes form.
For instance, says Pesnell, “during solar minimum we can see the development of long-lived coronal holes.”
Coronal holes are vast regions in the sun’s atmosphere where the sun’s magnetic field opens up and allows streams of solar particles to escape the sun as the fast solar wind.
Pesnell says “We see these holes throughout the solar cycle, but during solar minimum, they can last for a long time – six months or more.” Streams of solar wind flowing from coronal holes can cause space weather effects near Earth when they hit Earth’s magnetic field. These effects can include temporary disturbances of the Earth’s magnetosphere, called geomagnetic storms, auroras, and disruptions to communications and navigation systems.
It is essential to note and highlight that solar minimums happen every eleven years or so, but an executive order published in October of 2016 highlights that the government may be preparing for an event that could disrupt our nation.
The executive order titled, Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events was signed by Barack Obama and gained little media attention.
COORDINATING EFFORTS TO PREPARE
THE NATION FOR SPACE WEATHER EVENTS
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to prepare the Nation for space weather events, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid. 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, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector.
It is the policy of the United States to prepare for space weather events to minimize the extent of economic loss and human hardship. The Federal Government must have (1) the capability to predict and detect a space weather event, (2) the plans and programs necessary to alert the public and private sectors to enable mitigating actions for an impending space weather event, (3) the protection and mitigation plans, protocols, and standards required to reduce risks to critical infrastructure prior to and during a credible threat, and (4) the ability to respond to and recover from the effects of space weather. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) must coordinate their efforts to prepare for the effects of space weather events.
Sec. 2. Objectives. This order defines agency roles and responsibilities and directs agencies to take specific actions to prepare the Nation for the hazardous effects of space weather. These activities are to be implemented in conjunction with those identified in the 2015 National Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) and any subsequent updates. Implementing this order and the Action Plan will require the Federal Government to work across agencies and to develop, as appropriate, enhanced and innovative partnerships with State, tribal, and local governments; academia; non-profits; the private sector; and international partners. These efforts will enhance national preparedness and speed the creation of a space-weather-ready Nation…. Continue On
The following is a pdf of the executive order;
Could the government be preparing for a geomagnetic event during the coming ‘Solar Minimum?’