Relaymedia

Solar Flares Threaten With Massive Power Outages Across The Globe That Can Last Months

( [email protected] ) Nov 06, 2015 12:28 PM EST
The Daily Mail reports that the US government is preparing measures that will alleviate or counter effects produced by a massive loss of power caused by an unprecedented solar storm.
Stock Photo

The US government is preparing measures that will alleviate or counter effects produced by a massive loss of power caused by an unprecedented solar storm, according to The Daily Mail

The report quotes space weather consultant John Kappenman saying that "This could be one of the most severe natural disasters that the country, and major portions of the world, could face."

According to NASA and Wikipedia, when magnetic energy built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released, a solar flare is released. This solar flare emits radiation from radio waves, optical emission, X-rays and gamma rays. This flare is "a rapid and intense variation in brightness."

Minor solar flares help create the Aurora Borealis phenomenon in the northern hemisphere.

However, a large flare would have a different effect. The amount of energy released in such a flare is the same as millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding simultaneously. The first documentation of such an occurrence happened on September 1, 1859, by Richard C. Carrington and Richard Hodgson, who were observing sunspots.

In more recent times, a solar storm almost struck Earth in 2012 but miraculously passed the orbit, leaving the planet unharmed. Nevertheless, scientists are banking on a 12 percent possibility that there could happen a repeat performance by 2022, and this time, the Earth may not be so lucky. The UK Express reports that such solar events occur near Earth around every 100 years or so.

The geomagnetic solar storm that hit in 1859 caused telegraph lines to explode, and set fire to some telegraph offices. Power failures spanned Europe and North America.

In today's technologically dependent world, a solar flare in the 21st century could wipe out power grids, and render communication, power-dependent functions and electronic transactions useless, which is why the US government is working on a contingency plan to address the threat. If the solar flare strong enough to affect the Earth did take place, researchers say this can cost up to USD 2.6 trillion in damages to the economy, according to a 2008 National Academy of Sciences study.

Among the preparations that are being done include a six-step plan that will benchmark the threat of events to improve speed and accuracy in forecasting. These cover new satellites in space and technologies on the ground.