Preparing for Lights Out

While much of the focus on disaster preparedness has been on terrestrial issues, like floods, storms, or hurricanes, the federal government has been working to prepare for potential disaster on a cosmic scale.

In a recent step forward, the White House has released a contingency plan for the event of disruptive space weather, where space weather is considered to encompass variations in the space environment between the sun and Earth. Of particular note within this space weather is the potential for the sun's ejection of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) as part of a solar flare that, should it directly strike the Earth, could damage or completely shut down the national power grid.

As part of the release and discussion of the plan, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will host the “Space Weather: Understanding Potential Impacts and Building Resilience,” event, at which OSTP Director John Holdren will formally release the National Space Weather Strategy and the National Space Weather Action Plan. Together, these documents will provide a framework for national enhancement of space-weather preparedness, as well as international collaboration, on both a short and long term basis.