Extreme solar storms can disable railway traffic

Scientists have discovered that destructive solar storms can switch traffic lights on the railway. A study published in the journal Advanced Earth and Space Science indicates that extreme storms in the Sun that emit radiation can affect the operation of technical systems, for example, switching railway traffic lights from red to green and vice versa. 

The sun may accidentally switch traffic lights on the railway. Illustrative photo: Unsplash

The sun is an active star that regularly emits radiation into the Solar System. This radiation can affect the Earth, causing various phenomena, such as the aurora borealis. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA), as solar storms approach their 11-year peak of the solar cycle, they become more frequent, which can pose a problem and lead to malfunctions in power grids and other technologies. A team of scientists has discovered that the electric field caused by a super-powerful solar storm, which happens once a century, can cause a significant number of false alarms at traffic lights.

“Our research shows that space weather poses a serious, if relatively rare, risk to the rail signalling system, which could cause delays or even have more critical, safety implications,” said study lead author Cameron Patterson, a physicist at Lancaster University.

Scientists are looking for ways to reduce the impact of solar storms on the operation of railway traffic lights. Illustrative photo: Unsplash

It is unknown when the next extreme solar storm will occur, which can cause serious accidents. But the team found that the massive geomagnetic storm that caused the Carrington event of 1859 could cause significant problems with signals on the railway, putting train safety at risk.

Now scientists are looking for ways to reduce the impact of solar storms on the operation of railway traffic lights, which are not protected from the effects of solar storms. One option is to restrict rail traffic if an extreme event in the Sun is expected. The same way weather forecasts for aviation and shipping are used now.

Earlier, we reported on how solar activity was developing faster than expected.

According to eurekalert.org

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