- Apr 29, 2012
- Reaction score
- On an island. Not that one!
- Political Leaning
No biggie - right? We can all live without the internet, probably be better for our kids if they weren't staring at a screen 90% of their waking hours. Oh, it might mess with the production of a few items but no biggie - right?
A large solar storm could knock out the power grid and the internet
On Sept. 1 and 2, 1859, telegraph systems around the world failed catastrophically. The operators of the telegraphs reported receiving electrical shocks, telegraph paper catching fire, and being able to operate equipment with batteries disconnected. During the evenings, the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, could be seen as far south as Colombia. Typically, these lights are only visible at higher latitudes, in northern Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia.
What the world experienced that day, now known as the Carrington Event, was a massive geomagnetic storm. These storms occur when a large bubble of superheated gas called plasma is ejected from the surface of the sun and hits the Earth. This bubble is known as a coronal mass ejection.
The plasma of a coronal mass ejection consists of a cloud of protons and electrons, which are electrically charged particles. When these particles reach the Earth, they interact with the magnetic field that surrounds the planet. This interaction causes the magnetic field to distort and weaken, which in turn leads to the strange behavior of the aurora borealis and other natural phenomena.
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Geomagnetic storms have been recorded since the early 19th century, and scientific data from Antarctic ice core samples has shown evidence of an even more massive geomagnetic storm that occurred around A.D. 774, now known as the Miyake Event. That solar flare produced the largest and fastest rise in carbon-14 ever recorded.
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It is only a matter of time before the Earth is hit by another geomagnetic storm. A Carrington Event-size storm would be extremely damaging to the electrical and communication systems worldwide with outages lasting into the weeks. If the storm is the size of the Miyake Event, the results would be catastrophic for the world with potential outages lasting months if not longer. Even with space weather warnings from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the world would have only a few minutes to a few hours notice.