Hi-Tech Systems Vulnerable To “Space Weather” Effects Says Swiss Re Report

June 28, 2000

“Space Weather – hazard to the Earth?”, a new 41 page study from Swiss Re, examines the effects of solar activity and related interstellar phenomenon on earth’s weather, and on high tech installations, and reaches some alarming conclusions.

“Space weather,” says the report,” is largely determined by atomic particles emitted from the Sun and the stars. The effects of this phenomenon are many and varied: they include electronic failures, immediate and long-term hazards to astronauts and aircraft crews, changed electrostatic charges in satellites, interruptions in telecommunications and navigational systems, and power transmission failures and disruption of rail traffic.”

Solar activity goes in 11 year cycles, and the peak of the current cycle is predicted to occur later this year. As the report says, “The number of vulnerable systems has increased and networks have expanded greatly since the last maximum eleven years ago, which in turn has augmented the risk for both policyholders and the insurance industry.

It also directly addresses the role of insurers, saying, “The possible consequences of space weather puts a new complexion on the risks threatening our technical world. While people and technological systems have always been exposed to terrestrial natural hazards, bringing space weather into the picture opens up whole new dimensions which may ultimately affect the insurance industry through personal injury, property and financial losses.”

Swiss Re also foresees a greater responsibility for insureds with the evolution of better analytical techniques for space weather. ” Should events now be considered foreseeable because of, the constant improvements which are being made in space weather forecasting?” asks the report.

It concludes that, “This much is certain: loss mitigation measures are rapidly gaining in importance, and the insurance industry should pay increased attention to the duties of the insured in this area.”

A complete copy of the report may be obtained on Swiss Re’s website at: http://www.swissre.com.

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