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The Great Space Weather Storm of May 1967: How It Nearly Changed Everything

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Friday, October 27, 2017 - 12:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • JILA 10th Floor - Foothills Room

Speaker Name(s): 

Delores J. Knipp

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, CU Boulder
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Astrophysics Lunch Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

Although listed as one of the most significant solar storms of the last 80 years, the space weather storm of late May 1967 has been largely forgotten. I will explain how the May 1967 storm was nearly one with ultimate societal impact, were it not for the nascent efforts of CU-educated Air Force officers in monitoring and forecasting the extraordinary solar conditions and geospace responses on 23-27 May 1967. On 23 May an initial “great” solar radio burst, which caused radio interference at frequencies between 0.01-9.0 GHz, was accompanied by near-simultaneous disruptions of dayside radio communication by intense fluxes of ionizing solar X-rays. Aspects of military control and communication were immediately challenged. Shortly thereafter a solar energetic particle event interfered with high-frequency communication in the polar cap. Subsequently, record-setting geomagnetic and ionospheric storms compounded the disruptions. I detail three aspects of the storm: The great radio burst; the solar energetic particles; and the surprising effects on upper atmospheric temperature. As noted in Knipp et al. [2016] this was one of the “Great Storms” of the 20th century, despite the lack of reported geomagnetically-induced currents. Radio disruptions such as these warrant the attention of today’s radio-reliant, cellular-phone and satellite-navigation enabled world.