Spoiler Alert—This is not just about weather. It’s about the latest thing in weather—space hurricanes. Who knew?
Writers worldwide have been engaged by the thousands in the day-to-day fare of writing weather forecasts and results. In their spare time they read, write and agitate about floods, storms, droughts, and all manner of weather. But space hurricanes? Now that’s news. And it comes with its own subset of ethical dilemmas.
NBC News reported on March 3, 2021, “When it comes to extreme weather, it’s safe to say a ‘space hurricane’ qualifies. Scientists said last week they observed a previously unknown phenomenon — a 620-mile-wide swirling mass of plasma that roiled for hours in Earth’s upper atmosphere, raining electrons instead of water.”
Apparently, scientists from China, the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom accidently found the first known space hurricane. They were looking for something else while studying satellite pictures taken in 2014. While orbiting over the North Pole, they were stunned. “A spiral-armed space hurricane swirled roughly 125 miles over the North Pole, churning in place for almost eight hours.”
No one knows how long it took before a Wiki page popped up, but it’s there now, swirling roughly around digital space at gazillions of seconds per electron. It was, Madame Wiki said, “A large plasma storm . . . a gigantic cyclone-shaped aurora . . . fed by rapid transfers of solar wind energy and charged particles . . . with geomagnetic activity that could disrupt GPS satellites.”
So, is the news about weather or is it about whether Siberians and Alaskans around the 60th latitude should be shaking in their woolies? Is this news dangerous? Is it true—is there such a thing as a space hurricane or is QAnon at it again? Which wing is flapping—our right wing or our left wing? Do we need a vaccine or a solar shield? Certain conspiracy theorists have been theorizing that Covid-19 was created in China. Will this news give them a second front in the attack-China spectrum? Is the truth of this startling news grounded in throwing electrons on politics instead of fire hoses?
History tells us there is such a thing as an ethical weather report. Governments and research institutions give ethical guidance occasionally, especially on space travel, access, and weather. Are we now facing space hurricanes that can advance climate change and make taxes go up? That will rouse the right wing. If space hurricanes rain electrons instead of water, will that rouse the left wing?
There is a connection between hurricanes and greenhouse gasses. One space hurricane might have a carbon footprint the size of Mississippi. NASA says, “The expected buildup of atmospheric ‘greenhouse’ gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, is likely to increase surface air and ocean temperatures and change wind patterns over many regions. Scientists are uncertain about how these climate changes will affect the frequency of occurrence of North Atlantic hurricanes. Nor can they predict whether the storms will become stronger in future decades.” Consequently, writers should take this is an ethical issue. When writing about something exciting—Space Hurricane—it would be ethical to include adverse consequences in the interest of both accountability and transparency. What is our government going to do about space hurricanes? Is this a liberal or a conservative challenge? Who can we trust on this one—FEMA or the CDC. Both were by slammed by lesser storms in the last decade. Will they act ethically or politically? The news media is our ethical watchdog, but questions remain. Is FEMA still suffering from ethical relapse, as it was when Katrina struck? Is the CDC still watering down its Covid-19 warnings as it did during the last administration? What would FEMA say about space hurricane warnings? What would the CDC say? Neither entity has turned out to be particularly straightforward because they bend when politics overpower events and science.
I am an author and a part-time lawyer with a focus on ethics and professional discipline. I teach creative writing and ethics to law students at Arizona State University. Read my bio.
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