X-Class Solar Storms Are Coming
The sun is entering a period of increased activity, and massive solar eruptions are beginning to wreak havoc on modern technology. A recent solar eruption disrupted radio communication in China, and there is concern that further eruptions could disrupt daily life on a wider scale. Scientists at NASA have been warning for some time of the dangers of space weather affecting the earth, and particularly the danger of solar storms.
With the sun due to reach the top of both its 22-year magnetic energy cycle and 11-year Sunspot cycle in 2013, there’s real danger of magnetic energy damaging electronic equipment. The 11-year solar cycle is only an average, and sometimes lasts 9, or sometimes lasts 13 years. The last time it peaked, in 1859, a powerful solar eruption known as the Carrington Event struck, causing fires and shorting out telegraph wires.
According to NASA, the Carrington Event was a solar storm of such magnitude that the skies were filled with red auroras, compass needles pointed in the wrong direction, and electric current passed through the Earth’s topsoil. The storm was caused by a coronal mass ejection that hit the Earth’s magnetic field with such intensity that it created vibrations and sent currents through both the ground and atmosphere.
In previous major disturbance of the Earth’s electric grid from a solar incident, in 1973, a magnetic storm caused by a solar eruption plunged six million people into darkness in Canada’s eastern-central Quebec province. Imagine how much more powerful this disruption would be with modern infrastructure; with communications and power shorted out, global chaos would ensue. With a mobile phone in every pocket and a PC in every home, the damage could be a true “end of the world as we know it” event.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences estimates that the disruptions and destruction caused by such storms could exceed $2 trillion and require years to rebuild all affected infrastructure and systems. A vast majority of the developed world could be without power and water for years.
“X-class flares [such as the Carrington Event] are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms,” disturbing telecommunications and electric grids, NASA said. Geomagnetic storms usually last 24 to 48 hours, “but some may last for many days,” read a separate NWS statement. “Ground to air, ship to shore, shortwave broadcast and amateur radio are vulnerable to disruption during geomagnetic storms. Navigation systems like GPS can also be adversely affected.”