Space Weather: The Next Y2K

A few weeks ago the press carried stories of a future “Global Katrina” costing the world economy $2,000 billion, caused by intense solar storms that are due in a year or two. Hardly anyone batted an eyelid. The press buried it in their inside pages. Yet this is a serious problem, researched and reported by respectable scientists.

Perhaps the memory of Y2K and Swine Flu scares makes us suspicious of doom laden warnings. If so, then we will have an uphill struggle convincing managers that this is a real phenomenon that requires a fair bit of preparation.   

This problem is cause by “space weather” which can affect communications and electricity supplies. Solar storms are forecast to reach a peak in a year or two, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long, long time, well before the Internet, GPS, mobile phones and modern power grids. They weren’t around back in 1859 when the last really big solar storm hit, but it did take out telegraph services.  

Lloyds have recently published a 360 Risk Insight report on the subject. It’s essential reading for anyone working in security, business continuity or risk management. 

Expect a fair bit of disruption to critical services. When will it happen? We don’t know for sure. That’s what makes it different from Y2K. But there are similarities. We need to examine our supply chains and identify critical services that might be affected and develop appropriate contingency plans.

Yes, it’s another Y2K job, though it has yet to appear on the risk registers and heat maps of most enterprises. But watch out for the coming bandwagon. I’m already booked to speak at a conference on the subject later this month.