Magnetic Storms Affects on Equipment and Humans


Without the sun, life on earth would cease. The sun provides warmth, light, and energy for photosynthesis. In addition to its many benefits, it can also wreak havoc on earth. As a result of the sun’s activities, magnetic storms can occur. However, to understand how magnetic storms affect earth, an understanding of how the sun and earth play a role is important.

The Life Cycle of the Sun

The sun is a big star. Like other stars, it has a life cycle. Beginning as a nebula, it condenses into a ball of gas and dust. As the dust and gas condense, it produces heat. When it reaches a certain temperature, nuclear reactions begin. It begins by burning hydrogen into helium. Burning lighter atomic nuclei into heavier nuclei, it burns heavier and heavier nuclei until it reaches the ‘iron stage.’ At this stage, it ceases to exist.

When the sun rotates unevenly, it can twist and distort magnetic fields. When these magnetic fields are distorted, sunspots form. Occurring in pairs or clusters, a sunspot is a region on the sun’s surface that is cooler than the surrounding area. These distorted magnetic fields can exit one sunspot and enter another. As they exit the surface of the sun, they can emit gases, particles, and radiation. These eruptions cause a stream called a solar wind. When the solar wind hits the earth’s magnetosphere, a magnetic storm occurs.

Understanding the Earth’s Magnetic Field

To understand how the earth protects us from outer space, an understanding of the earth’s magnetic field is also important. The earth’s magnetic field is caused by the earth’s composition. The earth is composed of three layers: the core, the mantle, and the crust. The innermost layer is the core. It is composed of solid iron and nickel. The next layer, the mantle, is composed of molten iron and nickel. Unbelievably, this layer is hotter than the surface of the sun. Surrounding this layer is the crust. It is composed of dense rocks.

The rotation of the earth causes the molten layer or mantle to spin. Consequently, the spinning generates electrical and magnetic fields. This magnetic field surrounds the earth and extends for miles and miles into outer space. Called the magnetosphere, it shields and protects the earth from outer space and the sun.

Magnetic Storms’ Affect on Equipment and Humans

Even though the magnetic storms occur in outer space, they affect activities and life on earth. When a solar wind strikes the magnetosphere, it’s radiation and particles disrupt and prevent the movement of radio signals. Affecting equipment like global positioning systems, satellites, power lines, electric grids, radios, televisions, and telephones, it can damage equipment and cause blackouts.

Just as magnetic storms can affect equipment, they can affect human health too. Although they usually do not affect healthy individuals, they can affect people with high blood pressure, heart, and cardiovascular problems. Micro variations before an impending storm can change the flow of the blood in the capillaries, change the heartbeat, and increase adrenalin. Consequently, the incidence of heart attacks and strokes is higher at these times.

Furthermore, they can affect astronauts, pilots, and aircraft passengers. If these people are in outer space, they no longer have the protection of the earth’s magnetosphere. Consequently, they may be exposed to lethal levels of radiation.


The average distance of the sun from the earth is approximately 92.58 million miles. Although that seems incredibly far away, the activities of the sun can and do affect life on earth. When the sun’s activities cause magnetic storms, both equipment and life are affected. According to the Geology and Physics Institute, magnetic storms will increase steadily until 2011. Unfortunately, although scientists can predict a magnetic storm a few days in advance, they can only be certain of an impending storm 30 minutes in advance.