Why does space have to be so weird? While combing through old satellite data from 2014, scientists discovered that a swirling storm of plasma rained electrons in the ionosphere above the North Pole. The previously unknown phenomena, called a space hurricane, is just as bizarre as it is horrifying.
Like a normal hurricane, these so-called space hurricanes spin in one direction, with storm arms made of plasma sprawling in every direction. Plasma at the edge of the storm moves at the highest speed, while the “eye” of the storm is calm—just like a regular hurricane.
But that’s not where the similarities end. The space hurricane also produces rain in the form of electrons. It’s like a lazy idea from a throwaway Star Trek episode, except it’s real, and it happened right over Earth.
The 2014 space hurricane occurred in Earth’s ionosphere 125 miles above the North Pole. It disrupted satellites and, had it happened after sundown, would have been visible from Earth’s surface. Scientists say that the phenomena would look similar to an aurora borealis.
Our atmosphere was in the perfect condition to facilitate a space hurricane in August 2014, as it was a time of low geomagnetic and solar activity. Space hurricanes likely occurred in the past and went unnoticed, and will probably happen again in the future. So are they dangerous? Not necessarily, although a space hurricane positioned closer to populated regions of Earth could block satellite and radio signals, or in a worst-case scenario, jostle the power grid.
For the time being, we should probably worry about regular hurricanes, which become more powerful every year (just as climate change researchers predicted). Hurricane season began June 1st, so if you live in a vulnerable area, it’s time to set up a preparedness kit, review evacuation routes, and make sure that you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.