Our communications systems on Earth are relatively fragile when it comes to how they adapt to solar storms. In fact, there's the possibility that a storm that's strong enough can disrupt communications satellites and shut down air travel, lights, computers and telephones for days, months or even years. Now, scientists are looking at the probability of this event and how best to counteract it.

"Since the development of the electrical telegraph in the 1840s, space weather processes have affected the design, implementation and operation of many engineered systems, at first on Earth and now in space," said Louis Lanzerotti of NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research. "As the complexity of such systems increases, as new technologies are invented and deployed, and as humans have ventured beyond Earth's surface, both human-built systems and humans themselves become more susceptible to the effects of Earth's space environment."

While a powerful solar storm could disrupt communications and energy grids, it also has the potential to corrode water and sewer pipelines. These storms, which consist of powerful bursts of electromagnetic radiation, could even erase historical data stored in computer memory and undermine military and security operations, as well as harm astronauts traveling in space.

In this case, the researchers held a symposium to discuss possible solutions for counteracting solar storms. In this case, the researchers pointed at the need for data to support military operations and other operations that require communications. If a solar storm hits, then there will be other operations in place in order to help minimize the impact on these operations.

"The technological and biological impacts of severe space weather events are now firmly in the federal government's sights," said Andrew Gerrard, director of NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research. "All things being equal, increased research funding from the represented federal agencies will further bolster the incorporation of 'space weather' into our daily lives. Such development will enable the solar-terrestrial community to, for the first time, see a solar storm, track its approach and prepare accordingly."

The new conference highlights the importance of putting strategies in place in order to counteract these solar storms. This is extremely important considering how reliant our society currently is on communication.

The latest on space weather risks was presented at a conference in Washington D.C.