Solar Storms: A Disaster Waiting To Happen

Solar Storm

It’s a normal average Sunday night in the Winter, heading into the work week as the US and North America start to head to sleep. But then everything starts to change, as the midnight sky on the East Coast, 9pm on the West Coast, the nights sky lights up with an absolutely amazing lights display in the sky. It is so magnificent that the entire country is unable to sleep and everyone in cities such as New York, Washington DC, and Honolulu, Hawaii head outside to view the once in a lifetime Aurora Borealis sighting.

The Aurora Borealis is so bright that people can read their newspapers without the lights, and some might even mistake the aurora for someone for a light that they kept on. However, this amazing light show that the Aurora Borealis puts on for the US is a sign that everything is wrong and will continue to go wrong for the next day. Technology such as airplanes, satellites, and telephones all are affected as the same features of the aurora is causing problems. This is included some in the US are starting to notice that services that rely on satellites are disrupted to varying degrees, including slower speeds and service stoppage. In Europe, where cities such as London, Madrid, Berlin, and Rome are all beginning their day, these disruptions would be even more catastrophic. Planes that are in flight will have issues with their communications, making air traffic control harder if not impossible in some situations. Moreover, telephone wires and exposed wiring will be fried too an extent that would at least partially restrict communication. This confusion would send the stock market into chaos, as although internet communication that is buried beneath the ground won’t be as affected, satellite communication and internet will be all but knocked out.

There will be some time before the true impact of the solar storm hits the planet, but unless specific actions are taken to turn off or shield the power grid, generators and electrical systems in microchips will be fried by the impending solar storm. There are ways to mitigate this potential impact such as having better early warning systems and procedures to turn off the power grid in an emergency situtation such as this one. If not done properly, then not only will humanity not have any warning to be able to take the appropriate actions, but the actions won’t even be able to be taken.

Events such as this have happened before with the Carrington Event, in which a 1859 solar storm fried a large percentage of the telegraph wires and caused technological issues when it hit. Just as in 1859, when the telegraph wires were disconnected from their batteries, but were still able to be powered by the electricity in the air, the electromagnetic currents would run through every wire available.

So it is definitely possible and with the increased reliance on technology and microchips, which are vulnerable to the effects of the solar radiation from these events, it is important to note that they can and potentially will happen again. Therefore, it is important to note that it is called a low probably, very high impact event because although the likelihood is very low, the impact would be very high. The time it would take to rebuild the transmission and energy grid after an event like what happened in 1859 would take years if not decades to recover from. To have another event similar to Carrington, it would probably happen when the sun is near the solar maximum in the solar cycle, which is when the sun is the most active.

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