Solar Storms: Apocalyptic Messengers

Solar stormsThe Sun is both our friend and our enemy. But how would it strike us if it could? Well, let’s see … how about solar storms?

The Sun will straight up execute you if given a chance. Luckily it’s millions of miles far. Of course, that doesn’t stop it from blasting all kinds of radiation, millions of tons of super-heated plasma and charged sub-atomic particles our way at millions of miles an hour. Some of these solar storms can truly mess up life, as we know it.

Influence of solar storms.

If a CME ( a coronal mass ejection ) smacks the Earth the results could be catastrophic. “The Sun is the same as a volcano,” said Thomas Berger, the director of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. We can’t estimate when it’s going to erupt, but we can see the signs. So let’s say it shoots a blast our way.

According to the White House’s National Space Weather reaction plan, from early November 2015, a big CME could influence electric power systems, satellites, aircraft, spacecraft operations, telecommunications, position navigation, timing services, other technologies and infrastructures that add up to the nation’s security and economic strength.

When a geomagnetic storm impacts the earth, the electromagnetic energy from the solar wind creates geo-magnetically induced currents ( GIC’s ).
Think of an electrical generator. When the turbine rotates, a magnet moves beneath a wire, creating electricity. GIC’s are a geo-electric field, but the magnetic field is the width of the earth, and the wires of our power grid are the wire in the generator. Just like that we have created an electrical catastrophe.Solar storms


But it’s not just wires on the ground. During solar blasts, high orbiting geosynchronous satellites can turn electrically charged and short out, while low-orbiting satellites will enter increased air resistance, as the atmosphere warms up and expands into their flight route. Which is not good.

What if history repeats itself?

In 1859 the Carrington event, in the northeastern US, generated Aurora so intense, that people could read by the light of it. Aurora was recorded as far south as Cuba and Honolulu. It was the biggest solar storm ever recorded. This was pre-electric lights, but early Telegraph systems were shortened out. Imagine if this hit NOW. We’re so dependent on electricity at the moment, that is just mind-blowing.
If a Carrington size event would to strike the earth now, it could overload the power grid, blacking out a lot if not the whole planet. It would kill television, GPS and so one. In solar storms, the radio would be washed out by the high-energy. We would be completely in the dark.

In the aftermath, our satellites would be fried and the power grid would be pretty much lost. Communications and power would be dead for years, costing trillions of dollars …. years without electricity … this will cost about 10 times higher than any natural disaster ever. The National Space Weather action plan is something the government can follow, in case of a giant solar storm. The plan describes the alarming levels of ionization and what we can do to save space aircraft, power stations, local governments and so on. But all this depends on a cool early-warning system.

How would we know?

About 1 496 690 kilometers (930 000 miles) from earth, at Lagrange point one ( a gravitationally secured parking spot between us and the Sun ) is a satellite that NOAA calls a tsunami buoy. The advanced composition explorer ACE was created to give us the early warning we need, just in case, the Sun throws a CME our direction. With this space buoy we will get twelve to fifteen hours, which are somewhat limited, but enough that paired with a response plan, grid supervisors could turn off the grid and the public could be warned.

We will be basically blacking out a large chunk of the planet, but that’s better than pressing the reset on the technological age.

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