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Extreme space weather and geomagnetic storms can disrupt power systems, $1.65M NSERC-CREATE grant aims to fix it

Extreme space weather and geomagnetic storms can disrupt power systems, $1.65M NSERC-CREATE grant aims to fix it

Home » Category Listing » Extreme space weather and geomagnetic storms can disrupt power systems, $1.65M NSERC-CREATE grant aims to fix it

Extreme space weather and geomagnetic storms can disrupt power systems, $1.65M NSERC-CREATE grant aims to fix it

TORONTO, May 16, 2024 – Canada is particularly susceptible to disruptions caused by extreme space weather and geomagnetic storms to some of its key, heavily relied on technology, such as power systems, GPS, satellites and cell phone service, but a $1.65 million grant will help train the next generation to devise solutions.

Through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Collaboration Research and Training Experience (NSERC-CREATE) program, York University Associate Professor Afshin Rezaei-Zare will lead the Geomagnetic Disturbance in Modern Societies and Technological Infrastructures (GMD-MSTI) program.

These geomagnetic storms are the same disturbances that produce the colourful aurora borealis phenomenon or northern lights, but they also have a destructive capacity on navigation systems, radio signal and satellites, and can cause catastrophic failures and even complete blackouts in power grids.

Headshot of Rhonda Lenton
Rhonda Lenton

“Since its founding, York University has been a leader in global, interdisciplinary research that transcends sectors and borders,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “We are immensely grateful to NSERCE-CREATE for this generous grant which will help our researchers advance our understanding of these disturbances and mitigate issues for the benefit of local and global communities.”

Designed to develop innovative, interdisciplinary training, the program focus will be on advanced modelling and analysis techniques to assess the impact of geomagnetic disturbances, such as solar storms brought on by changes in the solar winds, on critical technological infrastructure. It will also develop ways to effectively mitigate issues through strong intra-institutional and industrial collaboration.

Canada isn’t alone in this issue, but because of its geographical positioning in the high latitude region, it is one of the countries with the highest risk of disruption through extreme space weather or GMDs, potentially affecting people’s daily lives and having economic repercussions or health impacts.

Afshin Rezaei-Zare

“In contemporary societies, there's an intricate reliance on technologies that are vulnerable to extreme space weather and geomagnetic disturbances,” says Rezaei-Zare, Lassonde School of Engineering. “Given the interconnected nature of these technological systems, a singular malfunction can have a domino effect compromising the functionality of other vital infrastructures.”

Canada has incorporated GMD into its national risk profile, however, there is still a noticeable gap in specialized training programs to address a lack of skilled workers in these pertinent industrial sectors largely due to the interdisciplinary complexities of the phenomenon.

The ultimate objective of the GMD-MSTI program is to graduate highly qualified personnel with top-tier industrial and applied-academic research expertise to meet national and international demand for professionals in the fields of power systems, wireless communication, space missions and satellites, biomedical engineering and science, and policy.


York University is a modern, multi-campus, urban university located in Toronto, Ontario. Backed by a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners, we bring a uniquely global perspective to help solve societal challenges, drive positive change and prepare our students for success. York's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education. York’s campuses in Costa Rica and India offer students exceptional transnational learning opportunities and innovative programs. Together, we can make things right for our communities, our planet, and our future. 

Media Contact: 

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-272-6317,