Development of space weather reasonable worst‐case scenarios for the UK national risk assessment

Mike Hapgood, Matthew J. Angling, Gemma Attrill, Mario Bisi, Paul S. Cannon, Clive Dyer, Jonathan P. Eastwood, Sean Elvidge, Mark Gibbs, Richard A. Harrison, Colin Hord, Richard B. Horne, David R. Jackson, Bryn Jones, Simon Machin, Cathryn N. Mitchell, John Preston, John Rees, Neil C. Rogers, Graham RoutledgeKeith Ryden, Rick Tanner, Alan W. P. Thomson, James A. Wild, Mike Willis

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Severe space weather was identified as a risk to the UK in 2010 as part of a wider review of natural hazards triggered by the societal disruption caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April of that year. To support further risk assessment by government officials, and at their request, we developed a set of reasonable worst‐case scenarios and first published them as a technical report in 2012 (current version published in 2020). Each scenario focused on a space weather environment that could disrupt a particular national infrastructure such as electric power or satellites, thus, enabling officials to explore the resilience of that infrastructure against severe space weather through discussions with relevant experts from other parts of government and with the operators of that infrastructure. This approach also encouraged us to focus on the environmental features that are key to generating adverse impacts. In this paper, we outline the scientific evidence that we have used to develop these scenarios, and the refinements made to them as new evidence emerged. We show how these scenarios are also considered as an ensemble so that government officials can prepare for a severe space weather event, during which many or all of the different scenarios will materialize. Finally, we note that this ensemble also needs to include insights into how public behavior will play out during a severe space weather event and hence the importance of providing robust, evidence‐based information on space weather and its adverse impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020SW002593
Number of pages32
JournalSpace Weather
Issue number4
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • extreme conditions
  • national risk assessment
  • reasonable worst‐case scenarios
  • space weather
  • technological impacts


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