We all know that the sun is harmful to your skin if you go out without sun screen and while everybody talks about its harmful rays, we all agree that we need it to stay alive. It makes the crops grow, it gives us our seasons by virtue of its distance from the earth during certain times of the year, and we are now just beginning to use its energy to power certain things here on earth. But there is one thing that scares scientist more than skin cancer, and that is the possibility of a massive solar storm.
Electric utilities, telecommunications providers, and believe it or not, the insurance industries are all concerned about such an event taking place. In a worst case scenario, such a storm could leave 20 to 40 million people in the Northeast without power for years as the storm would fry thousands of transformers from Washington State to Boston. That statement was made by Lloyd’s of London, the world oldest insurance market. In 1989, a solar induced geomagnetic storm left 6 million people in Quebec without power for 9 hours. And in 1859, such a storm hit Colorado, and was powerful enough to disrupt telegraph service in Philadelphia. The communications for the country was unusable for hours. It a good thing that they were not so dependant on electricity back then as we are now. Such an event today would have a undesired economic effect to the tune of $2.6 million dollars.
The possibility of a solar apocalyptic event has a lot of people thinking of alternate plans, including power companies, and airlines. I don’t have to tell you what would happen to our satellites which in itself would totally wreck communications. No television, no internet and so on, so don’t throw out those old board games yet. The space station would have to be abandoned because of first, no way to talk with the astronauts, and second, the radiation levels would rise drastically The same type of storm that hit Colorado occurred in July 2012, and missed the earth by a week.
Using 4 satellites, the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado can predict an incoming solar event when it’s 30 minutes away. The trouble is that these satellites are reaching the end of their planned lives, and fuel, with only one being replaced this year. That means that until a replacement is launched, we are at the mercy of the suns weather patterns. Maybe this would be a good time to invest in kerosene lanterns and candles.
Photo courtesy of NASAJPL.com