A DISTINGUISHED scientist who is leading the UK’s response to the threat of storms from the sun which can disrupt satellite communications and electrical power grids has been awarded the OBE in the New Year’s honours list.

Professor Paul Cannon, who lives in Colwall and until recently worked at QinetiQ, has spend decades studying space weather - the high-energy particles and radiation emitted by the sun.

Professor Cannon is also a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was the lead author in the academy’s report, Extreme Space Weather, published earlier this year.

He said: “This report is being taken extremely seriously in government circles, and I assume that it’s because of this that I was recommended for the OBE.”

The report deals with the dangers posed by ‘solar superstorms’, massive eruptions from the sun which can disrupt communications, and damage the satellites on which the human race increasingly relies for services ranging from TV to GPS.

In extreme cases, solar superstorms can even disrupt electrical power grids on the earth’s surface - in 1989 a storm caused a large part of the power grid in Quebec, Canada, to fail.

He said: “It’s very gratifying to be given the award, because it shows that people in high places are taking the threat of solar superstorms very seriously.

“Only last week, it was announced that the Met Office will soon be providing daily space weather forecasts to provide early warning of solar storms.”

Professor Cannon, aged 60, grew up in Enfield, North London, and studied physics at Southampton University before working for Marconi and the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

He moved to the Malvern area with his family 20 years ago and worked for QinetiQ in senior positions until October.

He is currently professor of radio science and systems at the University of Birmingham.

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