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Could the Latest Solar Storm Warnings Bring an End to Civilization as We Know It?

Posted 10/31/2016 1:55 pm by with 0 comments

On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.  Picuted here is a lighten blended version of the 304 and 171 angstrom wavelengths. Cropped Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

Did you know that the White House is currently coordinating with Homeland Security to make preparations for a possible solar storm that could bring an end to civilization as we know it? An Executive Order published on October 13, by the Obama administration shows an increasing concern among White House officials about “solar flares, solar energetic particles and geomagnetic disturbances,” following a solar event which generated a Category G2 geomagnetic storm on October 8. This action could likely mean that we have an imminent solar threat in our near future. A solar discharge of great magnitude could mean entire countries could be without electricity, civil unrest and countless lives lost. If federal officials are preparing for this sort of disaster, we have enough reason to arm ourselves with the knowledge of what we might face.

 

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What are CMEs?

 

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are violent explosions of plasma originating from the Sun’s corona, out of  which energized particles and powerful magnetic domains emerge as fast as 3,000 kilometers per second. A CME has an associated shock wave and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can travel toward the Earth and interrupt satellites and power grids around the planet. There are currently no public disclosures of CMEs being detected, but there is a significant geomagnetic storm event beginning, combined with the Executive Order previously mentioned, gives cause for concern about the possibility of a CME striking our planet in the near future.



 

A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center predicts a Category G2 geomagnetic storm from October 24 – 26. An aurora borealis is projected to be seen in the skies above New York to Wisconsin to Washington state, and interruption to satellites and power lines are expected.

 

It is possible that this particular storm is not the result of a CME, but in order to be prepared, one must first know what disasters may lie ahead and plan accordingly.

 

Here are 5 catastrophic consequences of a major CME hitting the Earth and changing life as we know it:

 

Satellite Disruption

 

If there was a high-magnitude impact of solar energy and particles, we would see an immediate response on low-Earth orbiting weather, communications, and military satellites. Some satellites could be crippled for up to a decade. The first sign that a major CME is about to strike will be a loss of connection with or permanent failure of a portion of low-Earth orbiting satellites and their associated infrastructure. The shock wave, in combination with an EMP, would likely cause significant disruption of GPS signals, possibly creating long-term failures across the global navigation satellite system. This would have disastrous implications for commercial airplanes and ships, many of which rely on GPS guidance systems for landing and docking, and a failure of timing on either of these systems could put countless lives at risk. Seismic stations, computer network synchronization and many electric power grids across the world rely on GPS clocks. Geomagnetic disturbances associated with CMEs are known to disrupt GPS clocks through interference of high frequency radio signals in both air and ground transmission. Here is some more information on EMPs.

 

 

Power Grid Failure

 

A large-scale geomagnetic storm generated by interactions between Earth’s magnetic field and magnetic domains originating from the Sun could cause geomagnetically induced current (GIC), where transformers and power lines can experience a large flux in power from changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The transformers and associated infrastructure may overheat and the power grid across more than half of the U.S. and many other industrialized countries could fail and cause a widespread blackout scenario if there was a large enough solar event. A study by Metatech corporation shows that a GIC with comparable magnitude to that of the 1921 geomagnetic storm would be projected to destroy more than 300 extra high voltage transformers and adjacent power lines across the U.S., leaving approximately 150 million people without power. The study highlights the risk to the power grid saying, “In 1921, a geomagnetic disturbance of approximately 5000 nT/min, ten  times  the magnitude of the 1989 storm, is believed to have occurred.  A storm  of this magnitude today would cause widespread damage to the electric grid of  unprecedented proportions.”

 

This means that all streetlights and stores could lose power without warning. Hospitals could lose power, causing failure of equipment and countless lives could be lost. Computers, cell phones, electric cars and anything else that requires a charge would die and be rendered unusable for the duration of the power grid failure. Credit card transactions and ATM machines will not work. A prolonged failure of even one-third of the grid could potentially require at least ten years for the repair and replacement of fried transformers, capacitors and power lines across the country. The end result of such a sudden and extreme loss of electricity would result in a cataclysmic loss of life, with projected human casualties at almost 100 million as a result from one major geomagnetic disturbance.

 

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