Steve Dishart
Corporate Communications
Swiss Re, New York

ZURICH, Switzerland, June 27, 2000 — Our increasingly technology- dependent world is sensitive to solar activity and to changes in this activity. A new Swiss Re publication reveals that space weather not only affects the functioning of technical systems in space and on Earth, but may also endanger human health and life.
Space weather is largely determined by atomic particles emitted from the Sun and the stars. The effects of this phenomenon are many and varied: they include electronic failures, immediate and long-term hazards to astronauts and aircraft crews, changed electrostatic
charges in satellites, interruptions in telecommunications and
navigational systems, and power transmission failures and disruption to rail traffic. Solar activity reaches a maximum in an eleven-year cycle; we are on the threshold of the next maximum in solar activity — and thus increased influence of solar weather on the Earth — which scientists have forecast for mid-2000.
The publication covers the effects of space weather on our technology- dependent world with a focus on electronics, space flight and aviation, telecommunication, electric power transmission, the gas and oil
industry and railway systems. Besides presenting the hazards and potential damage, the authors also examine predictability, forecasting possibilities and countermeasures.
"Space weather – hazard to the Earth?" also examines the relevance of space weather for the insurance industry: Are insurance covers, which are mainly limited to sudden and accidental damage, more heavily exposed than before, or less — given the new knowledge about space weather and the possibilities for dealing with it? Should events now be considered foreseeable because of the constant improvements which are being made in space weather forecasting? This much is certain: loss mitigation measures are rapidly gaining in importance, and the insurance industry should pay increased attention to the duties of the insured in this area. The new solar activity maximum expected for mid-2000 could be used as an opportunity to raise risk awareness and encourage more appropriate behaviour. This would work to the benefit of all parties involved: the number of vulnerable systems has increased and networks have expanded greatly since the last maximum eleven years ago, which in turn has augmented the risk for both policyholders and the insurance industry.
For further information on the subject, access Swiss Re’s website at . The publication "Space weather – Hazard to the Earth?" can be downloaded from the internet, .