WASHINGTON — President Obama signed an executive order related to space weather Thursday, and in the process acknowledged that solar storms could take out the power grid, water supplies and other critical infrastructure – not only in the United States but throughout the world.
“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,” the order states. “Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents.”
The executive order, titled “Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events,” laid out a plan to prepare the country for a major solar storm. Four years ago, Earth was nearly hit by a storm that could have taken out the power grid, NASA scientists have said. In 1859, a solar storm slammed into Earth and rendered telegraph machines – the most advanced technology of the day – unusable. Northern lights were seen in the Caribbean. It was dubbed the Carrington Event.
“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,” the executive order read.