Space Science Reviews

, 214:21 | Cite as

Extreme Space Weather Events: From Cradle to Grave

  • Pete Riley
  • Dan Baker
  • Ying D. Liu
  • Pekka Verronen
  • Howard Singer
  • Manuel Güdel
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. The Scientific Foundation of Space Weather


Extreme space weather events, while rare, can have a substantial impact on our technologically-dependent society. And, although such events have only occasionally been observed, through careful analysis of a wealth of space-based and ground-based observations, historical records, and extrapolations from more moderate events, we have developed a basic picture of the components required to produce them. Several key issues, however, remain unresolved. For example, what limits are imposed on the maximum size of such events? What are the likely societal consequences of a so-called “100-year” solar storm? In this review, we summarize our current scientific understanding about extreme space weather events as we follow several examples from the Sun, through the solar corona and inner heliosphere, across the magnetospheric boundary, into the ionosphere and atmosphere, into the Earth’s lithosphere, and, finally, its impact on man-made structures and activities, such as spacecraft, GPS signals, radio communication, and the electric power grid. We describe preliminary attempts to provide probabilistic forecasts of extreme space weather phenomena, and we conclude by identifying several key areas that must be addressed if we are better able to understand, and, ultimately, predict extreme space weather events.


Extreme space weather events Coronal mass ejections Geomagnetic storms Carrington event 



The authors would like to thank the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) for their gracious hospitality while hosting our team for a workshop on space weather. PR would also like to acknowledge support from NASA’s Living with a Star program. Finally, we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to a reviewer who provided extremely detailed and constructive comments on a draft of the paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pete Riley
    • 1
  • Dan Baker
    • 2
  • Ying D. Liu
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pekka Verronen
    • 5
  • Howard Singer
    • 6
  • Manuel Güdel
    • 7
  1. 1.Predictive Science Inc.San DiegoUSA
  2. 2.LASPUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, National Space Science CenterChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Finnish Meteorological InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  6. 6.NOAASpace Weather Prediction CenterBoulderUSA
  7. 7.Department of AstrophysicsUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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