The advancement of technology in space has made significant changes in the manner in which individuals live their lives. Avionics allow us to fly to other continents on almost a moment’s notice. Utilizing GNSS services, we are able to drive our vehicles without a paper map whenever we travel on roads we haven’t traveled before. And even some form of radio has become the backbone of both our communication networks as well as our entertainment. Just what will happen in case a solar storm interrupts this? That is the aim of a new paper by Natalia Buzulukova and Bruce Tsurutani, one of the world’s top experts on space weather. They say we haven’t prepared for a solar storm that could come soon, and that’s a once-in-a millennial trend.
That’s most likely because no such storm has ever occurred before, but in nearly all modern history, there was an exceptionally severe storm. In 1859 a series of big sunspots showed up on the Sun, and a little below a day later on massive auroras appeared all over the place. Now it’s known as the Carrington event, after one of the scientists who documented it. And it might be a precursor to what might come in future extreme space weather events.
In 1859, the telegraph was the peak of scientific development of the age, and the Carrington Event ravaged the emerging technologies. The brought on ionic current within the atmosphere brought about massive voltage spikes on telegraph lines. With such high caused voltages, it was inevitable that several of the lines would arc in between each other, and this’s what happened. The ensuing electrical arcs have resulted in numerous fires over the telegraph system, including several telegraph offices. Communications were likewise disrupted for much of the morning when the storm hit the earth.
All of the destruction occurred when telegraphs as well as electrical energy were just emerging as technologies. With the arrival of substantial high voltage transformers as well as mobile phone towers, the risk of catastrophe has become orders of magnitude greater.
Ground-based systems are not, however, the only ones that are vulnerable to the consequences of space weather. Satellites have become increasingly crucial in our lives, from providing online access to war-ravaged Ukrainians to navigating downtown Chicago. Their location above the defense of the Earth’s atmosphere makes them particularly prone to negative space weather effects.
What would happen today in case we were struck by a solar storm of the dimensions of the Carrington event? It is not clear how far the harm might go, though it would clearly be a catastrophe on the Earth’s power and communications networks. Because every one of these has wide-ranging implications for society at large, there is a high likelihood that daily routines, at least those that make use of those devices, would be hugely disrupted for days, weeks or months.
Unfortunately, as the paper says, we aren’t prepared for it adequately. The appearance of a solar flare at some future time is not an if. It’s a whenever. And it’s additionally an awful time to start setting up for such a catastrophe, considering that it is going to take less than a day from time we detect it for a storm to begin leading to harm.
The suggestion of Tsurutani and Buzulukova is sensible. scientists should map out the worst case scenarios, what their probabilities are, and what impact they will have. Then, we ought to determine as a society what danger we need to take in the event of such a storm. Because it’ll happen someday. We ca not point out we were not advised.
This article originally was published by Universe Today.