Space Science & Space Physics Editors' Highlights

Severe Radiation Storms Pose Health Risk to Air Travel

Simulations of radiation storm fluxes on real flight paths highlight how severe space weather could expose aircrew and passengers on busy transatlantic routes to significant radiation doses.

Source: Space Weather


Hubert and Aubry [2021] simulate the radiation impact of a very severe, but credible, space weather event on air travel, with a major focus on the busy routes across the North Atlantic. Their simulation looks at many real tracks followed by aircraft in March 2019, and estimates the radiation doses that would have accumulated on-board if exposed to a severe atmospheric radiation storm, such as that thought to have occurred in AD 774/775.

This simulation confirms previous literature (e.g. Cannon et al., 2013) showing that severe radiation storms could expose passengers and aircrew to radiation doses above the internationally agreed limits for public and occupational exposure to radiation. It adds to that by providing valuable insights into how that exposure might vary depending on several factors including the time profile of the storm, the direction of travel and the location of jet stream. I hope that this manuscript provides a stimulus for further work on assessing this rare, but important, space weather risk.

Citation: Hubert, G., & Aubry, S. [2021]. Study of the impact of past extreme solar events on the modern air traffic. Space Weather, 19, e2020SW002665.

―Michael A. Hapgood, Editor, Space Weather

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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