This latest online feature from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) poses the question, “Is the magnetic field protecting Earth from deadly radiation about to reverse direction–or even disappear?” Based upon the PBS documentary that shares its name, “Magnetic Storm” explores the wonders of the G5 geomagnetic storm, a weather event strong enough to disrupt power grids from Canada to New York last year. In fact, researchers suggest the most serious power grid failure in American history was caused by a magnetic storm in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, itself triggered by the eruption of a huge flare from the surface of the sun. Unusual as this event might have been, many scientists today are beginning to worry that it could be a harbinger of things to come–and that changes to the planet’s magnetic field could make us ever more vulnerable to deadly radiation from space. The program first aired Nov 18. On its companion web site, students and teachers will find related articles and interactive activities designed to illustrate the significance of this major meteorological event.

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