Will The Peak Of The Solar Cycle In 2013 Produce Technology Crippling Solar Super Storms?
Our sun is becoming increasingly unstable, and most people have no idea the complete and utter devastation that a massive solar storm could potentially cause. A giant solar storm could potentially take out satellites, GPS systems, electrical grids, communication networks and pretty much anything else that runs on electricity or that relies upon electronics. And considering how dependent our society has become on technology, we are talking about an event that could possibly bring about the end of the world as we know it. Right now, solar activity is increasing as we approach the peak of Solar Cycle 24. But the worst is yet to come. Scientists are expecting a significant increase in coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic disturbances as we approach the peak of this solar cycle in 2013. A number of scientists are warning that there is a chance that we could even see an event similar to the solar storm of 1859 that fried telegraph machines all over Europe and North America. Other scientists are warning that our sun is starting to behave so unusually that it is becoming very difficult to predict what may be coming next. If our sun starts to behave even more erratically, that could mean big trouble for all of us. If our sun fails, there is no backup plan. We only have one sun. Most of us take the stability of the gigantic ball of fire that our very small planet is circling for granted, but what if it becomes apparent that we can’t take that for granted any longer? That can be very frightening to think about.
Just a few years ago, there was very little activity on the sun. Normally, activity on the sun does slow down during non-peak times, but the years of 2008 and 2009 were unusually slow. At the time, David Hathaway of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said that we were “witnessing something unlike anything we’ve seen in 100 years“.
But now solar activity is becoming dangerously intense as we approach the peak of the solar cycle in 2013. One group of sunspots was measured to be 118,681 miles wide earlier this year. According to NASA, that would be “more than 15 Earths set end to end“.
But what we have seen this year is only the beginning. Scientists expect solar activity to really kick into high gear once we get into 2013. Just check out what Dr. Matthew Penn of the National Solar Observatory in Arizona saidearlier this year…
“Because the sun is becoming more active, it will have an impact on millions of people. Sunspots can cause the biggest and most damaging space storms that occur.
During the next two years, we are expecting the number of sunspots visible on the sun to reach a maximum. We know that sunspots are the source of a lot of space weather and solar storms, so we expect a larger number of solar storms here at the Earth.”
Solar activity runs in cycles, and some scientists are concerned that since solar activity got so quiet back in 2008 and 2009 that it might mean that the coming solar peak might be particularly intense.
The shift in solar activity that we have witnessed over the last couple of years has definitely been dramatic. Back in 2009, there were 260 days without any sunspots. In 2012, there have been zero days without any sunspots.
The following chart from spaceweather.com shows the number of days without any sunspots that we have seen since 2009…
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
But it isn’t just that we are seeing a lot of sunspots. We are also seeing some truly breathtaking explosions on the sun. Just check out this example from earlier this month…
A truly gigantic explosion happened on the sun yesterday. On Nov. 16th, magnetic fields snaking halfway across the sun’s southern hemisphere erupted in tandem, producing a prominence so big, it doesn’t fit inside this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO): “The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. “The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.” The blast hurled a CME into space, but the cloud does not appear to be heading for Earth.
If our sun becomes even more unstable, that could dramatically affect the lives of every man, woman and child living on the planet.
The number one thing that causes changes in our weather patterns is the sun, and the United States is just coming out of one of the worst summers of drought in U.S. history.
If solar instability plays havoc with our weather patterns and we see dramatic crop failures all over the globe, what would that do to our ability to feed ourselves?
And if people cannot feed themselves, would that cause societal instability all over the planet?
Perhaps an even greater concern is what would happen if a giant solar super storm caused a massive EMP burst took out our electrical grids.
Remember, we have seen such an event before in 1859. Many scientists warn that if a similar event happened today that it would be absolutely catastrophic.
Even a relatively minor event could have devastating consequences for our very vulnerable communications systems. The following is from a National Geographic article…
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.
If a very large EMP burst did take out our electrical grids, it would be a natural disaster unprecedented in U.S. history and it would potentially take many years to recover from such an event. The following is from a recent New York Times article…
A powerful solar (or “geomagnetic”) storm has the potential to simultaneously damage multiple transformers in the electricity grid and perhaps even bring down large sections of it, affecting upwards of a hundred million people in the United States for many months, if not years.
These huge transformers are expensive and difficult to replace, and not many are stockpiled in the United States for an emergency. In the worst case, the impact would be devastating: An outage could cost a few trillion dollars, with full recovery taking years. Not only would parts of the grid be compromised, but telephone networks, undersea cables, satellites and railroads also would be affected.
A 2008 National Academy of Sciences study warned that “because of the interconnectedness of critical infrastructures in modern society,” the “collateral effects of a longer-term outage” would likely include “disruption of the transportation, communication, banking and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration.”
Solar storms are just like regular storms – they can range from the totally harmless to the totally catastrophic.
But if we did experience a totally catastrophic solar storm, what would that mean for all of us?
In a previous article, I asked some questions that most people have not considered…
What would you do if an EMP attack happened in the middle of the winter and you suddenly were not able to heat your home any longer?
What would you do if all the electronics in your car got fried and you simply could not drive anywhere?
What would you do if all the supermarkets in your area shut down because food could not be transported across the country anymore?
What would you do if you were suddenly unable to call your family and friends for help?
What would you do if you were suddenly unable to get the medicine that you needed?
What would you do if your debit cards and credit cards simply did not work any longer and you could not get any of your money out of the bank?
What would you do if all of these things happened all at once?
Most people just assume that nothing like this will ever happen.
But what if it did?
Would your family be prepared?
Over the next couple of years, conditions are going to be ideal for solar super storms to develop which could potentially change life as we know it in a single day.
So keep an eye on news reports about the sun.
Hopefully nothing will happen.
But if something does happen, those that have made preparations in advance will be in the best position to survive the aftermath.