A risk assessment framework for the socio-economic impacts ofelectricity transmission infrastructure failure due to space weather: an application to the United Kingdom

Aurora Australis from the ISS
Aurora Australis Observed from the International Space Station: Astronaut photograph of the aurora was acquired on May 29, 2010, with a Nikon D3 digital camera, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 23 crew.
Space weather phenomena have been studied in detail in the peer‐reviewed scientific literature. However, there has arguably been scant analysis of the potential socioeconomic impacts of space weather, despite a growing gray literature from different national studies, of varying degrees of methodological rigor. In this analysis, we therefore provide a general framework for assessing the potential socioeconomic impacts of critical infrastructure failure resulting from geomagnetic disturbances, applying it to the British high‐voltage electricity transmission network. Socioeconomic analysis of this threat has hitherto failed to address the general geophysical risk, asset vulnerability, and the network structure of critical infrastructure systems. We overcome this by using a three‐part method that includes (i) estimating the probability of intense magnetospheric substorms, (ii) exploring the vulnerability of electricity transmission assets to geomagnetically induced currents, and (iii) testing the socioeconomic impacts under different levels of space weather forecasting. This has required a multidisciplinary approach, providing a step toward the standardization of space weather risk assessment. We find that for a Carrington‐sized 1‐in‐100‐year event with no space weather forecasting capability, the gross domestic product loss to the United Kingdom could be as high as £15.9 billion, with this figure dropping to £2.9 billion based on current forecasting capability. However, with existing satellites nearing the end of their life, current forecasting capability will decrease in coming years. Therefore, if no further investment takes place, critical infrastructure will become more vulnerable to space weather. Additional investment could provide enhanced forecasting, reducing the economic loss for a Carrington‐sized 1‐in‐100‐year event to £0.9 billion.

Details

Publication status:
Published
Author(s):
Authors: Oughton, Edward J., Hapgood, Mike, Richardson, Gemma S., Beggan, Ciaran D., Thomson, Alan W.P., Gibbs, Mark, Burnett, Catherine, Gaunt, C. Trevor, Trichas, Markos, Dada, Rabia, Horne, Richard B.

On this site: Richard Horne
Date:
8 November, 2019
Journal/Source:
Risk Analysis / 39
Page(s):
1022-1043
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.13229