13 August 2013

"Solar paranoia"

A snippet from Paul Douglas' On Weather blog:
I can't go into any details, but I can share the fact that most of our corporate customers who receive briefings & alerts on hurricanes, typhoons, floods and wildfires are MOST concerned about X-class solar flares, unpredictable burps on the sun that produce an EMP (electro magnetic pulse), capable of bringing down the grid.

Apparently Edward Snowden told his Russian hosts that one of the CIA's deep, dark secrets is a massive solar flare in September. The solar cycle is peaking this year, so the odds of a solar flare are higher than average, and a series of X-class solar flares did erupt from the sun earlier this year. But after consulting with NASA and other scientists I trust I can confirm that there's still NO WAY to predict a flare in advance, or whether Earth will even be in its path. It's like trying to predict an earthquake months or years in advance.
A quick search led me to this less-cryptic explannation at The Telegraph:
...such flares probably happen every few centuries or so. In late August and early September 1859, the Earth was hit by a smaller flare that had equally dramatic effects. Named the Carrington Event, after the astronomer who documented it fully, the solar storm caused Californian Gold Rush miners to be woken in their tents by the bright northern lights. Aurorae were seen as far north as Queensland in the southern hemisphere and as far south as Washington DC in the northern...

But there was also a chilling foretaste of what would happen if such an event were to repeat itself today. For the surge of charged particles had a dramatic impact on the nascent telegraph systems of the world. What author Tom Standage has called “the Victorian internet” was virtually knocked out. Telegraph wires were short-circuited, copper cables melted and some operators were given bad electrical shocks...

If a rerun of the Carrington Event were to happen tomorrow, it would be cataclysmic: power lines would melt, electrical sub-stations would catch fire, half the world’s telephone grid would be knocked out, telecoms satellites would go down and the internet would be crippled, perhaps for a year. There would be massive disruptions to food and water supplies, water treatment and distribution, as well as the global banking system...
A very long blogcation. I have mixed feelings about that.

1 comment:

  1. It's depressing to think that facing a zot that would cast us into a world limited with 1920's tech would also be classified as cataclysmic


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