(Copyright © 2002 Stephen Voss - used with permission)

Geomagnetic storms during the decline of solar cycles.


Solar Terrestrial Dispatch is one of the worlds most accurate space weather forecast centers. We outperformed all other space weather forecast centers during the influential severe geomagnetic storms of October and November 2003. Download a free copy of the peer-reviewed journal paper that demonstrates our performance.

Prediction Performance of Space Weather Forecast Centers following the Extreme Space Weather Events of October and November 2003

(Published 05 August 2004 in: Space Weather, by the American Geophysical Union)

Solar Terrestrial Dispatch is the primary space weather service provider for the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC). The NPCC is a critical and sensitive region of electric power supply in North America. The area covered by NPCC includes New York, the six New England states, and Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces in Canada. The total population served is approximately 54 million. The area covered is approximately 2.6 million square kilometers (or 1 million square miles).

As the primary service provider for the NPCC, Solar Terrestrial Dispatch has the responsibility of supplying rapidly updated real-time space weather forecasts and time-critical alerts of potentially hazardous space weather activity to the numerous NPCC control centers simultaneously, on a 24/7 basis (including weekends and holidays). The NPCC control centers digest this information using user-friendly computer software we have developed specifically for the control areas. Our software effectively ties all control areas together in a coordinated environment and ensures the reliable and timely delivery of warnings and forecasts of impending space weather activity that could become hazardous to the power industry. Our services include five layers of redundancy, exceptional quality control and immunity to potentially influential external stimuli. For example, local internet outages or even a wide-area electrical blackout would not affect our redundant systems abilities to continue to provide prediction and warning information to control areas. We even include free multi-language software support!

Space weather can be hazardous to the power industry at any time during the 11 year solar cycle. Powerful geomagnetic storms capable of producing significant geomagnetically induced currents (GIC's) on power grids can be experienced during the solar minimum years as well as during the solar maximum years. There is a popular misconception within the power industry and other industries that the most significant storms occur only during the years around the solar maximum, when sunspot activity on the sun is most prolific. That is largely a myth. Our Guidance Report to the Power Industry (see the link to the left) was published in response to a request by New York ISO (a primary controller for the NPCC) for information pertaining to the risks associated with space weather storms that occur throughout the solar cycle.

Contact STD@Spacew.Com and discover why Solar Terrestrial Dispatch is the vendor of choice in the power industry for mitigating the effects of space weather storms.



Very simply, operators and owners of critical infrastructure systems cannot afford not to implement a level of protection against solar storm induced damage.

The severe geomagnetic storm of 13-14 March 1989 produced an electrical power blackout across the Canadian province of Quebec. The cost of material damages to Hydro Quebec equipment from over-voltages caused by line openings amounted to 6.5 million Canadian dollars . The net cost of the power outage to Hydro Quebec was tagged at 13.2 million Canadian dollars (1), or about 10 million U.S. dollars. This excludes the much larger costs incurred to businesses and industries in Quebec.

During this same event, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) in New Jersey suffered serious damage to a bank of single-phase generator step-up transformers at the Salem Nuclear Generating Station. The damage was not investigated until 24 March when samples of the transformer oil found high levels of dissolved gases representative of internal damage. The presence of acetylene also implied that a significant failure was imminent (2). The transformer was immediately removed from service. Subsequent internal inspections revealed severe transformer damage and conductor overheating (image below).

All images have been provided courtesy of Public Service Electric and Gas and Peter Balma. Note that similar images have been floating around the Internet that have been falsely attributed to a "John Kappenman." We have confirmed through Peter Balma (co-author of the paper that studied the damage to the transformer) that Peter's team was responsible for taking these photo's (Peter is the one standing next to the transformer above). We believe it is important to give credit where credit is due and would like to commend Peter and his team at PSE&G for the fine job they did in investigating the damage that was sustained to the transformer.

The cost to PSE&G for replacing this transformer was on the order of several million U.S. dollars. The cost of replacement energy during the time the transformer was taken out of service was about $400,000 a day for 6 weeks (3), or approximately ~16.8 million dollars. The net cost for PSE&G was therefore over 20 million. Other companies across the continent also experienced significant anomalies, but we have concentrated on these two companies since they were on the higher end of costly effects for this event.

This single space weather storm cost Hydro Quebec and PSE&G close to 30 million U.S. dollars. Had comprehensive real-time protective space weather prediction services been available to these companies during this event, the damaging and costly effects of this storm might have been significantly reduced.

Foreknowledge of potentially influential space weather storms allows operators to enact protective measures before significant anomalies begin to be observed on power transmission networks.

As the continental power system operates at levels ever closer to maximum loads, the potential for solar storm induced damage increases. It is therefore important for owners and operators of these critical infrastructures to carefully examine the possible role that space weather predictions can have in safeguarding these expensive and important resources. Just as power companies use the guidance provided by meteorologists to tell them when lightning might affect their systems, so should they use the guidance provided by space weather forecasters to tell them when space weather storms might become hazardous.

Solar Terrestrial Dispatch has the most comprehensive, secure and cost-effective protection services in the industry. Our services are currently used by all of the control areas of the Northeast Power Coordinating Council region of North America.



Discover why Solar Terrestrial Dispatch is the vendor of choice for mitigating the effects of space weather storms. We invite interested companies to contact us and request our free 16-page publication that illustrates why our services are the best in the industry.

Contact us by sending an e-mail to: STD@Spacew.Com. Please make certain you include your name, the company you are affiliated with, a contact phone number and your e-mail address. We will typically respond within 12 to 24 hours.


  1. Léonard Bolduc, GIC Observations and Studies in the Hydro-Québec Power System, Institut de recherché d'Hydro-Quebec (IREQ).
  2. D.J. Fallon, P.M. Balma, and W.J. McNutt, The Destructive Effects of Geomagnetic Induced Currents in Power Transformers, presented at the Doble Conference, April 2-6, 1990.
  3. P.R. Barnes and J.W. Van Dyke, "Economic Consequences of Geomagnetic Storms (a summary)", IEEE Power Engineering Review, November 1990.