back to article NASA: Earth JUST dodged comms-killing SOLAR BLAST in 2012

A new analysis of data from NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) by Chinese and Berkeley helioboffins shows that a July 2012 solar storm of unprecedented size would have wiped out global electronic systems if it had occurred just nine days earlier. "Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Steve Knox Silver badge

    Interesting Science Fiction Take on this

    Flare by Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas

    1. cortland

      Re: Interesting Science Fiction Take on this

      A good read but, as with much SF, mostly for its insight into human relationships.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Interesting Science Fiction Take on this

        Hopefully the books are better than what Hollywood releases then, as the only thing they tell us about human relationships is to avoid them.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Alert

      @Steve Knox - Re: Interesting Science Fiction Take on this

      Better than "Inconstant Moon" by Larry Niven that I was thinking of...

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Missed

    By that much!

  3. Ketlan
    Alert

    Whoa!

    Bleeding pigs, that was close!

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

    Then it's not.

    While I don't think it's time to withdraw to a bunker in Montana I do think some (low key) contingency planning about this would be a good idea before planet Earth gets one of these pointed right at it.

    Planning how to segment power grids, a few spare big transformers (for the electric arc furnaces needed to make more big transformers), backup to GPS ( not satellite based).

    1. Stuart Van Onselen

      Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

      Sure, these things are necessary.

      No, they're never going to get done.

      Politicians are only concerned with building new infrastructure (when they get off their asses to do anything at all, that is.) That's what makes for good publicity and better chances of getting elected.

      Reinforcing existing infrastructure is nowhere near as glamorous as building new, and if you're lucky you can hold it together just long enough for it to fall apart on your successor's watch. (Remember, even if it breaks three days after he takes office, it's still entirely his fault.)

      And most frustratingly, in order to get things fixed, you need to raise public awareness. But if you do manage to stave off disaster, the ungrateful electorate will claim that there never was a threat in the first place, and that it was all a "hoax". (Prime example: Y2K IT fixes.)

      BTW, how do you intend to create a non-satellite GPS that doesn’t cost umpteen trillions to implement and billions every year to run?

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

      "backup to GPS ( not satellite based)."

      Map & Compass?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

        The map won't pinpoint your location and the compass is likely to go as haywire as the GPS constellation since it relies on magnetism. Heck, compasses tend to bork on lightning which is much more frequent.

        PS. Interesting an event this catastrophic measures in nanotesla. Makes me wonder what would happen if we were hit by an event that measures in the microtesla (or worse, millitesla).

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

          everyones fillings would melt.

          and that guy down the road who came back from 'nam with a metal plate in his head would become king

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

          Why would a compass not read true during this nonsense? The Earth's magnetic field is still there and bending the harmful charged particle component of the flare away from us. 'Cos if it ain't, we have bigger problems than the GPS not working and not being able to tweet.

          1. Donn Bly

            Re: Why would a compass not read true during this nonsense

            A magnetic compass would not read true because every piece of ferrous metal would be putting out a magnetic field, that due to is close proximity to you vs the earth's poles, would throw off the compass.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Why would a compass not read true during this nonsense

              Also, odds are the air itself will ionize and start to hold a charge. The same thing happens when lightning strikes.

            2. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: Why would a compass not read true during this nonsense

              "A magnetic compass would not read true because every piece of ferrous metal would be putting out a magnetic field, that due to is close proximity to you vs the earth's poles, would throw off the compass."

              Yes, but for how long? The GPS issue has to do with the long term effects of the destruction of the satellites in the path of the flare.

              But once the flare has been swept past by the combined effects of the Sun's rotation and the orbital motion of the Earth, the magnetic field induced in these ferrous metal sources you cite would drop dramatically and the Earth's magnetic field would be able to re-assert itself over the local environment.

              But furthermore, navigation by compass is really only an issue in places like deserts (where iron bearing mountains make a well-known mockery of mag compass readings) , plains (where the iron content is usually low) and the open sea (where the iron in question will be the hull of your own vessel), where you must navigate by dead reckoning in the absence of a real-time absolute fix on position (such as GPS).

              Everywhere else you navigate by piloting - looking at things you know to be on the way to where you want to go and working from one to another until "there". In a car, these things are usually street signs, petrol stations and the like.

              I'm not seeing the hurt here, compass wise.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

        Backup to GPS is a sextant. However in the middle of the day, the time to get a lock is a bit longer than GPS. I have seen some star trackers that will work during daylight hours, but they are not cheap, not small, and still unlikely to work with UK cloud cover.

        More of an issue is that the Early warning system told us about it 1.5 years late; OK so it wasn't heading directly for us, so wasn't within the perimiter of the warning system; but that's just being pedantic.

      3. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

        ball of string and a piece of chalk?

      4. Tom 13
        Coat

        Re: Map & Compass?

        What good is a geometry gizzmo for finding your way?

    3. Santa from Exeter

      Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

      'Planning how to segment power grids' Not a good idea.

      In the event of one of these hitting, and the warning system is now in place, unlike in 2012, then the UK with its national grid will actually fare better than the US with its regionalised grid. On a large grid, you turn everything on to spread the load, on a regionalised grid you have to turn everything off.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

        "In the event of one of these hitting, and the warning system is now in place, unlike in 2012, then the UK with its national grid will actually fare better than the US with its regionalised grid. On a large grid, you turn everything on to spread the load, on a regionalised grid you have to turn everything off."

        But the regions would appear to be several times the size of the UK. New York State is a bit bigger than England, and the Power Failure of '04 (said in a creaky miner 49er voice to add authenticity) showed how regionalized the grid is actually.

      2. Rebel Scot

        Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

        I sense a possible lack of understanding about the physical effects of such an event. In general, it will induce high voltages (and resultant high currents) in wires, particularly in long transmission lines. National grid or regional grid - makes little real difference; transformers connected to the grid at the time will almost certainly be disabled by the voltage surge induced in long transmission lines. What's needed is some warning and a method of very promptly disconnecting major equipment from the transmission grid. (Longer lines induce greater voltages; short lines induce much lower voltages.)

    4. proto-robbie
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Remember it's a low probability event *until* it's actually happening

      I'm actually off to the bunker, complete with tinfoil hat of course.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: I'm actually off to the bunker

        Well, it's your choice of course, but I have to point out that your tinfoil hat will act as a focus for the electromagnetic pulse and will in all likelihood heat to an estimated bajillion degrees (admittedly degrees Fahrenheit) doing considerable damage to the perm and noggin therein.

        By fashioning the tinfoil hat into a cup shape and filling the receptacle with water, stock, chopped veg and meat you can improvise an ablative and have some stew for dinner after the flare.

  5. Lionel Baden

    could be worse

    Glad I have a 2CV

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: could be worse

      "Glad I have a 2CV"

      Petrol pumps won't be dispensing, nor EPOS terminals working. So unless you've got a way of filling up by magic, you've got one tank of gloating before your jalopy joins the more modern machines as street furniture. Looking on the bright side, all these useless cars and buses could provide new homes fro tramps and the homeless, solving the problem of rough sleeping.

      OTOH the cars probably provide sufficient of a Faraday cage to protect their own electronics...

      1. Lionel Baden

        Re: could be worse

        Well would probably get more than 1 tank as nobody else would be using the fuel and could grab fuel from abandoned cars littered about. They're not going to be using it. But apocolypse movies have shown me you get shot for your car, so i will probably not be driving so much anyway.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: could be worse

          No one would shoot you for the 2CV... not one would want it.

          (I have nothing against them, just could not resist the joke!)

      2. Stuart Van Onselen

        Re: could be worse

        I've had my petrol tank filled despite a local power failure.

        Poor bastard pump attendant had to hand-crank every drop from the storage tank several metres below the ground, but eventually I had a full tank.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: could be worse

      "Glad I have a 2CV"

      Your luminition probably won't work after the storm, so make sure your points and accumulator are fitted and in working order. Make sure you have the starting handle somewhere handy too. 8-)

      1. Lionel Baden

        Re: could be worse

        @terry

        luminition !!!!

        How advanced do you think i am !!!!!!!

        Good old points for me :) although i would love a luminition kit.

        don't worry

        If i couldn't take the 2cv jokes i wouldn't drive one ;)

  6. Refugee from Windows

    Solar splat

    Wonder if we'd have had F-layer propagation up into the VHF region, would have made reception interesting (and a chance of getting a few new records made on 2m ! )

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solar splat

      lord no. imagine ALLO CQ ALLO DX EASY ABLE THREE JAPAN ECHO EASY ABLE THREE JAPAN ECHO on 145.500

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really?

    Has there ever been any substantial damage on the ground from one of these things? We keep getting warnings and supposed near-misses but is there any actual evidence that we should care?

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Really?

      RTFA!

      The 1859 storm, also known as the Carrington Event, after the British astronomer who recorded it, swept over the Earth at the end of August and is the largest recorded solar storm in history. The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba and telegraph systems burnt out across Europe and the US, in some cases shocking operators and continuing to send signals even when switched off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really?

        "The 1859 storm...."

        Yeah, when comms were unshielded and power grids unmanaged and unprotected against, well, ANYTHING.

        1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

          Re: Really?

          ""The 1859 storm...."

          Yeah, when comms were unshielded and power grids unmanaged and unprotected against, well, ANYTHING."

          And of course did not rely on unshielded electronics, or satellites or.....

    2. Big_Ted
      Childcatcher

      Re: Really?

      http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/sun_darkness.html

      On March 13, 1989 the entire province of Quebec, Canada suffered an electrical power blackout. Hundreds of blackouts occur in some part of North America every year. The Quebec Blackout was different, because this one was caused by a solar storm!

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        1989!? Why does it suddenly feel like a "low probability event" may not have as low a probability as I'd like?

    3. Rebel Scot

      Re: Really?

      Carrington Event in 1859 was last major solar storm to significantly impact Earth. At that time, no electrical grid existed, no solid state electronics were in use, no satellite navigation or comms systems existed, etc. So...our best indication of the likely effects comes from observed damage to telegraph wires that existed in 1859. In general, they were extensively damaged, resulting in multiple fires and lots of destroyed wiring. Specific effects on a localized basis will probably vary, but certain things are highly likely on a widespread basis: long transmission lines will induce very large voltage surges that damage transformers, effectively disabling our power grids. Imagine society without electricity, but also without the less sophisticated ways of getting things done that electrical appliances have displaced. No pumps to distribute water in urban centers, or to remove sewage. No heating for many homes. No refrigeration to keep perishable foods fresh. Urban centers quickly (within a week?) become untenable without electrical power.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        You know, I don't consider telegraph wires existing in 1859 to be a particularly great guide to what might happen today.

        Wires get hot because your putting too much current over them, and I would assume that data cable in 1859 was less good at taking currant than CAT5. However, if we assume it was exactly identical then CAT5 could take what, about 25watts at 12v before starting to get hot or melting?

        I can see that level being picked up, especially on long cable runs since we aren't talking high voltages here. However, I can't see a cable 2 inches thick used to carrying a thousand megawatts at 100-750 kv (ie; thousand volts) being melted. That's hundreds of thousands of times greater currant required to do any damage and transformers aren't exactly delicate little bits of microelectronics either. I can see why the crowd who ring us when they can't find the power button on the front of the PC would worry (or perhaps fantasise?) about all technology vanishing overnight, but I don't see why I should.

        Oh, I'd imagine that the grid would go out of range and things would shutdown causing a blackout, but isn't that about the worst that's going to happen?

        1. JCitizen
          Go

          Re: Really?

          @Peter2 - Back then phone and telegraph wire was almost 1/8' tp 1/4" solid copper wire. It probably did TOO GOOD of a job conducting electricity. With such a giant web of wire emanating out from major populations centers, even back then, it would have been like a giant capacitor. I imagine it was the sudden discharge of so much EMP that would literally make things explode, just like a nuclear EMP. Now days, we use some kind of aluminum alloy for above ground carrying capacity, and it can take more, but it can gather more too! I'm not sure it wouldn't be just as bad or worse, unless certain emergency trips are in place - just this summer's sun spot activity has burned out our local electric infrastructure several times. We didn't even have a full load of air conditioning on the system yet!

          Ironically fiber optic communications cable will be immune to this damage, but the power wires that travel with the fiber optic cable to power the repeaters inside the cable will probably be fried. Since these happen about every kilometer, you'd think they could service such points independently from the fiber cable. Also unfortunately we use such small solid state chip technology now that even a sneeze could blow the entire mobo on many devices. Modern cars would be out of commission but antique automobiles would be unaffected, especially since they are mostly stored indoors. Ham operators that are still using the old vacuum tube sets, will be immune to this especially if they disconnect the antenna before the event. But I doubt they could predict it. Civil Defense technology was developed way back in the 1950's to shield many systems, and but now we'd need automated sensors of some kind to disconnect things automatically. I don't see any movement toward that end. Maybe after our entire infrastructure gets fried they will finally find the money somehow to update the equipment to the new reality. Might as well if it is fried already! All this talk of a "SMART" grid may be the answer?

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Really?

            I think your missing a basic understanding of electronics and electrical transmission infrastructure, as well as the fact that a car is a sufficiently good Faraday cage to take lighting bolts (for which there is some great footage of on youtube) which discounts damage to cars IMO.

            Also- frying a sensitive low voltage device from with higher voltage is easy with extra voltage as it's sensitive to single digit change. Frying things meant to take literally hundreds of thousands of volts with an extra few hundred or thousand volts is not as easy.

            I'm not going to bother arguing with you in detail because it's generally pointless on the Intranet, but unless you show at least back of the envelope figures to support your claims then i'm going to continue to consider them illiterate scaremongering.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: a car is a sufficiently good Faraday cage

              A car from the 1960s sure, probably even the 1970s. The 80s and 90s are 50/50. Anything today? Too much plastic or fiberglass to be a decent Faraday cage.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: a car is a sufficiently good Faraday cage

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve6XGKZxYxA

  8. Aqua Marina Silver badge

    Analogue Nuclear?

    Are nuclear powerstations controlled by manual technologies, so that in the event of electrical failure, an engineer can turn off the powerstation using his pliers and wrench set?

    Just wondering what would have happenned if electrical control systems were fried.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Analogue Nuclear?

      Yes, our AGR power stations can be shut down by a man in the basement opening a set of vavles to flood the core with boron covered balls.

      Trashes the core and the station is completely borked as a result, but yes it can be shut down manually

      The control rods are also on electro magnets as I rememebr , so no power to the core , the rods drop in and shut it down anyway

    2. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Analogue Nuclear?

      Upvote for you Boris. AQ have a look at SCRAM in the encyclopaedia (post 1945) of your choice.

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: Analogue Nuclear?

      An emergency shutdown can be carried out - but power will be required before too long for cooling and the like in most designs. If the onsite generator is dead and there's no power incoming from the grid then it becomes problematic.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Analogue Nuclear?

        That's why having a fail safe for that too is best. No idea how many utilise this though.

        I've seen designs that allow the core to melt into a pit underground that is angled/shaped to spread the material over a larger area (still contained), so it becomes non-critical.

  9. kmac499

    How near a miss

    9 Days.. Forgetting where the suns rotation was pointing it for a sec 9 Days for us is about 9 degrees around our orbit Anyone any idea how many degrees wide the CMe was as it shot past our orbit.. and was it in front or behind of our orbital track?

    Either way I'd say that was frigging close, for a global tech squasher.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: How near a miss

      Don't forget the rotational period of the sun. It's about 25 days so 9 days earlier is the same as 16 days later. Assuming the video is accurate it appears to have been in the 90 to 120 degree wide range which puts a planet in the target window for about 6 to 8 days.

    2. Sander van der Wal

      Re: How near a miss

      The sun rotates around its axis in about 26 days. 9/26 means the storm was ejected around 120 degrees away from the line earth-sun, which is on the other side of the sun.

      A near miss indeed.

  10. Hollerith 1

    Aluminium foil manufacturers' shares will increase in value

    ...as people wrap tinfoil over everything in the house.

    Shirley that would work???

  11. Baron Ebaneezer Wanktrollop III

    Patent incoming!

    I see Apple filing a new patent for an iPhone coated in some strange material that is impervious to solar flares and will therefore continue to work. It won't get a very good signal mind but I suppose that depends on how you hold it......

    1. Fiddler on the roof
      Coat

      Re: Patent incoming!

      Bit worrying that the only conversations that could take place after this global catastrophe would be about either:

      A) How excited you were or would be when Apple did or is likely to release its latest product.

      B) How much of a dickhead you are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Patent incoming!

        Well you've just shown the world what a douche you are!!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blocked URLs

    I've asked before, please don't embed YouTube URLs into your articles. Most companies such as where I work block such sites, so when I try to read Register articles such as this one all I see are a bunch of frames containing:

    "Unauthorised access to inappropriate content"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blocked URLs

      It's a pity those companies don't trust employees and contractors to do their work by whatever means is best. There is plenty of potentially work-related material on YouTube (depending to some extent on what your work is).

      More generally, trying to stop people goofing off by censoring Web access is foolish. Hire people who won't goof off. If they do anyway, notice it and tell them to stop. If they ignore your request, fire them. OK?

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Blocked URLs

      I agree with Tom Walsh. Do IT services monitor how long you aren't at your desk? Does your company monitor all your phone usage too?

      Your productivity and internet usage should be the concern of your manager only.

      As for the link, when using the mobile, I wish that the actual link was provided, so I could 'click' and the video would then open in a video player, so i can avoid the slow flash crap.

      Leave the embedded stuff if you want, but have a href fallback please?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @jamiejones

        My employer tracks bathroom breaks. I wish I could say it was a joke but it isn't. Hence the ac.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: @jamiejones

          @anon: eeeek! For what it's worth, have a sympathetic upvote.

        2. cyrus

          Re: @jamiejones

          Do they have video recorders in there so they can see you are actually shitting and not smoking crack?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @jamiejones

            I think they use sensitive smoke detectors in bathrooms (and that includes on airplanes). That and some form of clock should suffice to keep bathroom breaks to a minimum.

            As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager may delegated the task to the IT guy as a security matter.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: @jamiejones

              "As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager maydelegatedthe task to the IT guy as a security matter."

              That's a fair point. I concede it also depends what the job is in the first place.

              'anon' neglected to mention he/she works on the counter at McDonalds!

    3. Alan_Peery

      Re: Blocked URLs

      Instead of pinging TheRegister for this one, ping your firewall team. They just need to block the video stream bits, and not do stupid things like rewriting the content of the web page.

  13. monkeyfish

    The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba

    If the aurora borealis was that big, then all comms and electronics failing the world over would be totally worth it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba

      If you just want pretty lights in the sky, suddenly knocking out all electronics in the region of the Crimea right now might be *just* the way to do it.

  14. Herby Silver badge

    Now THAT is what you call

    Global Warming. Caused by our nearest star, not man made. Pretty obvious.

    Of course, others will call it "weapons of mass destruction" and they may just be right.

    Then again, if it hits at night will anyone notice? Ohhh, Aurora!!

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Now THAT is what you call

      "At night", just means the other half of the planet. Pick your side as they say. :/

  15. swschrad
    Alert

    obviously, the sun is a terrorist!

    but they're having trouble lining up volunteers for the mission to take Old Sol out...

  16. John Savard Silver badge

    Obviously

    We will need to move our entire civilization underground, so that our computers and communications networks will be shielded from this kind of event. Of course, farmers will still need to work on the Earth's surface; perhaps they can keep in touch using fiber optic links!

    Keeping electrical lines short will limit how much current can be produced in them by induction from things like solar storms, so we will want to go away from large interconnected power grids.

    Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here while waiting for the computer manufacturing industry to be rebuilt? That would be better than tearing them apart to recover toxic metals or whatever. If we don't have a solar storm, at least this will prove to future archeologists that it wasn't a myth that people had computers in the 21st century.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: Obviously

      "Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here"

      Not many would survive an extended period out of use. Capacitors dry out, batteries leak - and what are you going to do with it anyway? Manual skills for shelter, warmth, clothing and food would be far more important. Once those basic needs are met, we need electricity, comms and healthcare.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Obviously

      "the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm"

      Yeah, but what are the odds that the five year old junkers will runs a modern OS like Windows 8? We'd all have to go back to WinXP. Oh, wait.... :-)

  17. cortland

    The thermometer didn't explode, did it?

    The STEREO probes at L4 and L5 didn't get trashed, and stuff down here in the gravity well isn't *necessarily* going to die.

  18. Doug Punchak

    Thanks guys...a year and a half later?

    Anyone else concerned that we're just getting the "research results" almost 2 years later?! What good would is the information if we can't predict or prepare? At least enough time to turn off our electronics and purchase a Faraday cage for our house. :-)

  19. SloppyMagic

    I wonder if anyone realises that any damage from a large CME (coronal mass ejection) can be totally eliminated by simply turning everything OFF.

    That's right. Except while turning everything OFF isn't exactly a trivial undertaking, believe me it will be a whole lot easier than the 5-10 years of misery that will follow a large CME targeted at the Earth if we don't.

    Everything from the entire electrical grid to your car battery will have to be disconnected in order to avoid damage. All circuit breakers would have to opened, everywhere.

    These mass ejections usually take 2-3 days to reach the earth so there would be sufficient warning. The power grid would only have to be down for the duration of the CME's impact on the earth, probably only 24 hours.

    Some power would have to be left on and the damage as a result "absorbed". I'm thinking nuclear power plants for example that would need continuous cooling.

    It would have to be done, because a CME of sufficient power has the potential to wipeout EVERY SINGLE pole line transformer in the WORLD. And replacement of all those transformers would take years, if not decades to complete, during which you would NOT have any electrical power at all.

    A program needs to be put into place to facilitate this shutdown before it is too late.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Turn it all off if you wish. It might though still cause fires for all those lines trailing outside your house. Telephone, electric etc. Did you read about the previous event? Those were not "electrified" or "powered" telegraph systems, some had been disconnected and still caused fires.

      Going Fibre to the house is the only protection. ;)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        your car battery will have to be disconnected in order to avoid damage

        This isn't The War of the Worlds or en EMP pulse, you know. To induce current you need a large current loop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or a link to the earth. With enough induced current, an arc might be able to jump gaps and either close loops or run down to earth.

  20. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Downvote me all you wish. But it's things like this that make me realize I is crazy to consider it "safer" to have people living on Mars instead of staying on Earth. At least on Earth we get the magnetic field to protect us. I wonder what a survival colony would do had that thing hit them. :/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't said colony live in a dome or other enclosure that can be designed to act like a faraday cage?

      Which makes me wonder. Can a large CME overwhelm the average faraday cage?

  21. Frank N. Stein

    Solar Storm that could've had catastrophic technological consequences? Great. Something to look forward to. Guess the support line wouldn't have been ringing on that day. Would've been a slow day then, or rather a slow 4 to 10 years..

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Hair triggers

    The problem is that a sufficiently large event might convince certain countries (or rather their hair trigger fail-unsafe nuclear arsenals) that a first strike was underway.

    Imagine if the Carrington event had happened during say the Cuban Missile Crisis, or had coincided with the Norwegian weather rocket event in 1995? Missile track incoming, and minutes later everything goes dark, its not outside the realms of possibility that a retaliatory strike would result on one if not both sides.

    It concerns me greatly that in this day and age we still have over 6000 nuclear weapons ready to launch with less than ten minutes notice.

    I'm not pointing fingers here (cough former USSR /cough) but we really have better things to do than have this much megatonnage just waiting for an accident or malicious use.

    We dodged a bullet in 1962 and 1995, but our luck can't hold out forever.

    -A

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019