In July 1982, train signals in Sweden went missing and wrongly turned red. The culprit was, believe it or not, a space storm that started 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away.
Explosive events on the Sun can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field. They send massive amounts of magnetized solar material hurtling toward Earth. A space storm, or geomagnetic storm, occurs when this material disturbs our planet’s magnetic field. This disturbance can create electric currents on the Earth’s surface that can disrupt power lines, pipelines, train tracks, and more.
Train track disturbances are particularly troublesome because space storms can interfere with detection systems that prevent collisions. Railways detect trains using electric currents and send stop signals to others to avoid collisions. But when the Earth’s magnetic field malfunctions, they may send the wrong signals to stop or depart, affecting operations and potentially endangering cargo and passengers on board.
CJ Patterson and his colleagues developed a model to test how strong a geomagnetic storm is required to disrupt railroads and how often this happens. The model, which simulates how space storms affect electrical signals, is based on two real-life UK railways with different directions and geography. The results have been published in the journal space climate.
They found that along the two model lines, a space storm powerful enough to disrupt a railroad signal occurs about once every 30 years. More intense storms – expected to occur once every 100 years – disrupted nearly all signals along both lines.
These findings could help scientists and regulators assess the vulnerability of trains to magnetospheric disturbances and spread awareness among operators.
CJ Patterson et al, Modeling the effect of geomagnetically induced currents on electrified railway signaling systems in the UK, space climate (2023). doi: 10.1029/2022SW003385
This story is republished with permission from Eos, and hosted by the American Geophysical Union. Read the original story here.
the quote: How Space Storms Mix Trains Signals (2023, March 31) Retrieved March 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-space-storms-miscue.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.