• Question: Do the poles (north and south) have any effect on electrical equipment and if so why?

    Asked by shivibains to Dalya, Derek, Sarah, Tim, Tom on 21 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Derek McKay-Bukowski

      Derek McKay-Bukowski answered on 20 Jun 2011:

      The fact that the earth has a magnetic field does affect electrical equipment and in different ways too.

      The magnetic field of the Earth causes the “magnetosphere”. This is a region around the Earth where the magnetic field traps charged particles. If there is a huge burst of particles from the sun, this delicate balance of particles and the Earth’s magnetic field can be messed up. These changes to the Earth’s magnetosphere (and also ionosphere) can result in big problems for electrical equipment.

      For example, it can make SatNav systems not work properly. It can cause damage to the electronics on satellites. It can disrupt long-distance radio communications.

      In extreme cases, it can also cause problems for wired-up equipment. There have been cases where fluctuations have caused problems for telegraphs and electrical equipment installed on long-pipelines. There is also one famous case in 1989, where a geomagnetic storm caused the power systems in parts of Canada to fail, resulting in huge power outages!

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Great explanation from Derek 🙂

    • Photo: Tom Crick

      Tom Crick answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Good work by Derek!


    • Photo: Tim Millar

      Tim Millar answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Good answer