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If you want to worry about something like that, consider
Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:41pm
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a solar storm. Here we are talking about millions of times as much energy as released by a nuke. Even so, remember the Media like to hype everything. I suggest that neither an EMP attack nor a coronal mass ejection would cause serious damage. It might put a few power grids offline for a while, fry a couple of satellites, etc. The biggest damage expense would be to satellites, which cost a billion or two each. Satellite TV transmissions would be the biggest casualties. Dozens of satellites might well be fried. Military satellites would be unaffected.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cNf8xK67JA

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

The solar storm of 1859 (also known as the Carrington Event)[1] was a powerful geomagnetic solar storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867). A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, September 1–2, 1859. The associated "white light flare" in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by British astronomers Richard C. Carrington (1826–1875) and Richard Hodgson (1804–1872). The now-standard unique IAU identifier for this flare is SOL1859-09-01.

A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread disruptions and damage to a modern and technology-dependent society.[2][3] The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth's orbit without striking the planet.[4]

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110302-solar-flares-sun-storms-earth-danger-carrington-event-science/

What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?
Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world, experts say.
By Richard A. Lovett, for National Geographic News

The cities along the Gulf of Mexico are seen at night from the International Space Station.
View Images

The night lights of the U.S. Gulf Coast shine below the International Space Station in October 2010.

On February 14 the sun erupted with the largest solar flare seen in four years—big enough to interfere with radio communications and GPS signals for airplanes on long-distance flights.

As solar storms go, the Valentine's Day flare was actually modest. But the burst of activity is only the start of the upcoming solar maximum, due to peak in the next couple of years.

"The sun has an activity cycle, much like hurricane season," Tom Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, said earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

"It's been hibernating for four or five years, not doing much of anything." Now the sun is waking up, and even though the upcoming solar maximum may see a record low in the overall amount of activity, the individual events could be very powerful.

In fact, the biggest solar storm on record happened in 1859, during a solar maximum about the same size as the one we're entering, according to NASA.

That storm has been dubbed the Carrington Event, after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the megaflare and was the first to realize the link between activity on the sun and geomagnetic disturbances on Earth.

During the Carrington Event, northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu, while southern lights were seen as far north as Santiago, Chile. (See pictures of auroras generated by the Valentine's Day solar flare.)

The flares were so powerful that "people in the northeastern U.S. could read newspaper print just from the light of the aurora," Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said at a geophysics meeting last December.

In addition, the geomagnetic disturbances were strong enough that U.S. telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment—some bad enough to set fires, said Ed Cliver, a space physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 1859, such reports were mostly curiosities. But if something similar happened today, the world's high-tech infrastructure could grind to a halt.

"What's at stake," the Space Weather Prediction Center's Bogdan said, "are the advanced technologies that underlie virtually every aspect of our lives."

Solar Flare Would Rupture Earth's "Cyber Cocoon"

To begin with, the University of Colorado's Baker said, electrical disturbances as strong as those that took down telegraph machines—"the Internet of the era"—would be far more disruptive. (See "The Sun—Living With a Stormy Star" in National Geographic magazine.)

Solar storms aimed at Earth come in three stages, not all of which occur in any given storm.

First, high-energy sunlight, mostly x-rays and ultraviolet light, ionizes Earth's upper atmosphere, interfering with radio communications. Next comes a radiation storm, potentially dangerous to unprotected astronauts.

Finally comes a coronal mass ejection, or CME, a slower moving cloud of charged particles that can take several days to reach Earth's atmosphere. When a CME hits, the solar particles can interact with Earth's magnetic field to produce powerful electromagnetic fluctuations. (Related: "Magnetic-Shield Cracks Found; Big Solar Storms Expected.")

"We live in a cyber cocoon enveloping the Earth," Baker said. "Imagine what the consequences might be."

Of particular concern are disruptions to global positioning systems (GPS), which have become ubiquitous in cell phones, airplanes, and automobiles, Baker said. A $13 billion business in 2003, the GPS industry is predicted to grow to nearly $1 trillion by 2017.

In addition, Baker said, satellite communications—also essential to many daily activities—would be at risk from solar storms.

"Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that's a satellite transaction," he said.

But the big fear is what might happen to the electrical grid, since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers. Such transformers can take a long time to replace, especially if hundreds are destroyed at once, said Baker, who is a co-author of a National Research Council report on solar-storm risks.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Cliver agrees: "They don't have a lot of these on the shelf," he said.

The eastern half of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable, because the power infrastructure is highly interconnected, so failures could easily cascade like chains of dominoes.

"Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year," Baker said. "The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years."

Even if the latest solar maximum doesn't bring a Carrington-level event, smaller storms have been known to affect power and communications.

The "Halloween storms" of 2003, for instance, interfered with satellite communications, produced a brief power outage in Sweden, and lighted up the skies with ghostly auroras as far south as Florida and Texas.

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