“Storms” in space may significantly damage power grids and other sensitive technological systems.The onset of storm effects is related to the spread of disturbances in the near-Earth space environment. Studies are showing that disturbances spread more rapidly than previously thought. Knowing just how rapidly will help determine how fast steps must be taken to protect such systems when a storm appears imminent.
The source of energy for space weather disturbances is the continuous stream of plasma directed outward from the Sun called the solar wind.The magnetosphere is the region of space that is shielded from the solar wind by the Earth's magnetic field.The portion of the magnetosphere lying at altitudes of 100–600 km is the ionosphere. Space weather effects are more readily observed there by groundbased instruments than in the outer reaches of the magnetosphere. An important manifestation of the coupling between the solar wind and magnetosphere is the circulation, or convection, of ionospheric plasma at high latitudes.