Target Earth: Coming Solar Storm May Have Catastrophic Effects

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
March 8, 2012

The solar system is entering into a phase where it’s brightest star — the sun — begins to decrease its activity. However, the giant star will not go out quietly. In the last few months, the sun experienced some of the heaviest activity in the last decade and emitted some of the largest explosions in the last 5 years. There is 1 in 8 chances that those explosions will cause major damages to the planet’s energy and communications grids.

According to scientists, the storm which is supposed to hit the planet beginning today, but whose effects will continue over the month of March, will shake Earth’s magnetic field and enhance the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.

The latest solar activity began with a massive solar explosion and flare that ejected from the sun at the start of this week. The flare then expanded in size as it raced through space in Earth’s direction. Scientists calculate that the solar particles contained in the flare will hit a speed of 4 million meters per hour (MPH) when it reaches our planet. “It’s hitting us right in the nose,” explained Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado. On Earth, experts believe the storm has the potential to disrupt significant parts of the planet’s infrastructure, such as utilities, air traffic, satellite and GPS services, and so on. The effects of the storm will be felt the most in the Northern Hemisphere, due to the direction the storm is approaching from.

As we arrive to the end of the 11-year solar cycle maximum, the sun seems to not be going down without making a lot of noise. Solar activity has picked up in the last few years, where Earth has seen an increase in solar activity in the form of explosions and flares that are launched out into space as a direct result of the sun’s restless activity.  Although the star has been relatively quiet in general terms, its spare activity has not been so quiet in itself. Even if this turns out not to be the major natural disaster that governments and “preppers” have been getting ready for, it sure has reminded everyone that there is very little we can do to avoid a catastrophe such as the full impact of a bigger solar storm.

“The storm is part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle, which is supposed to reach peak storminess next year. Solar storms don’t harm people, but they do disrupt technology. And during the last peak around 2002, experts learned that GPS was vulnerable to solar outbursts,” reports the Associated Press. According to the director of the Center for Integrated Space Weather, Jeffrey Hughes, the appearance of new technologies in the last decade or so increased the potential of further damages to the planet’s infrastructure. A direct hit, although fairly slim, could bring the Northern Hemisphere to a halt, if the energy and communications grids are damaged by the storm. As of right now, there isn’t a plan — neither on the national or international levels — to protect the substructures on which we all depend to carry out economic, technological and social activities.

“In today’s electrically dependent modern world, a similar scale solar storm could have catastrophic consequences. Auroras damage electrical power grids and may contribute to the erosion of oil and gas pipelines. They can disrupt GPS satellites and disturb or even completely black out radio communication on Earth,” asserts a report by Space Weather, the International Journal of Research and Applications. “By virtue of their rarity, extreme space weather events, such as the Carrington event of 1859, are difficult to study, their rates of occurrence are difficult to estimate, and prediction of a specific future event is virtually impossible. Additionally, events may be extreme relative to one parameter but normal relative to others.”

In the latest significant solar storm that occurred back in 1989, Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid went offline in just 90 seconds. The result of the event was that millions of Canadians were left without power for at least 9 hours. But even if the direct effects of a solar storm are not a cause for alarm, how about the indirect consequences. An interruption in communication services or energy supply would have the potential to bring about other problems. Among them, economic instability, social unrest, military conflicts, political unrest, earthquakes pandemics, famine and so on.

Current predicted solar activity is thought to continue affecting our planet through March, as the sun will experience more dangerous activity. According to Pierce Corbyn’s WeatherAction.com, the so-called ‘Canyon of fire’ on the solar surface along with the coronal hole seen on February 29 will bring specific and general extreme weather to within one day from 4 weeks ahead. Mr. Corbyn, a renowned meteorologist who bases his weather forecasts mostly on solar activity, associates recent tornado, Earth storms and earthquake activity such as the events cited above. In his latest report, Corbyn predicted that the most recent X5 solar flare would result in growing earthquake activity for the days following the solar explosion. He was right.

The distance between the sun and planet Earth is of about 93 million miles. It is estimated that solar particles traveling at half the speed of light — light takes 8 minutes to travel from the sun to the Earth — take about ¼ of an hour to reach the planet. Average solar wind takes about 4 days.

Sunspot Shoots Powerful Solar Storm Toward Earth

by Dave Mosher
Wired.com
March 5, 2012

Magnetic disturbances on the sun hurled a colossal burst of charged particles into space overnight.

The solar storm erupted from the sunspot AR 1429 at 11:13 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 4. According to a NASA forecast, it should reach Earth between late Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The exact size of the burst, formally known as a coronal mass ejection, isn’t yet known, but in terms of energy it’s an X1.1-class eruption — among the strongest measured by astronomers.. A direct hit by an X-class storm can cause radio blackouts, cripple satellites and heat wires.

Thankfully, the current space forecast suggests only the edge of the burst should clip Earth. The Space Weather Prediction Center announced that the event may spawn a minor radiation storm on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Similar solar storms are expected to increase as the sun moves toward solar maximum, the end of an 11-year cycle in which its magnetic fields become increasingly contorted.

The sun’s worst magnetic contortions typically appear over sunspots. When magnetic field lines break and reconnect, charged particles traveling along them can be flung into space.

Read Complete Article →

Coming Solar Storms May Damage Electric Grids

Reuters
August 8, 2011

Three large explosions from the Sun over the past few days have prompted U.S. government scientists to caution users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days.

“The magnetic storm that is soon to develop probably will be in the moderate to strong level,” said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

He said solar storms this week could affect communications and global positioning system (GPS) satellites and might even produce an aurora visible as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

An aurora, called aurora borealis or the northern lights in northern latitudes, is a natural light display in the sky in the Arctic and Antarctic regions caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.

Major disruptions from solar activity are rare but have had serious impacts in the past.

In 1989, a solar storm took down the power grid in Quebec, Canada, leaving about six million people without power for several hours.

The largest solar storm ever recorded was in 1859 when communications infrastructure was limited to telegraphs.

The 1859 solar storm hit telegraph offices around the world and caused a giant aurora visible as far south as the Caribbean Islands.

Some telegraph operators reported electric shocks. Papers caught fire. And many telegraph systems continued to send and receive signals even after operators disconnected batteries, NOAA said on its website.

A storm of similar magnitude today could cause up to $2 trillion in damage globally, according to a 2008 report by the National Research Council.

“I don’t think this week’s solar storms will be anywhere near that. This will be a two or three out of five on the NOAA Space Weather Scale,” said Kunches.

SOLAR SCALE

The NOAA Space Weather Scale measures the intensity of a solar storm from one being the lowest intensity to five being the highest, similar to scales that measure the severity of hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

The first of the three solar explosions from the sun this week already passed the Earth on Thursday with little impact, Kunches said, noting, the second was passing the Earth now and “seems to be stronger.”

And the third, he said, “We’ll have to see what happens over the next few days. It could exacerbate the disturbance in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the second (storm) or do nothing at all.”

Power grid managers receive alerts from the Space Weather Prediction Center to tell them to prepare for solar events, which peak about every 12 years, Tom Bogdan, director of the center said.

He said the next peak, called a solar maximum, was expected in 2013.

“We’re coming up to the next solar maximum, so we expect to see more of these storms coming from the sun over the next three to five years,” Bogdan said.

Growing threat from solar storms

AP
May 17, 2011

A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to criticial infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

NOAA Assistant Secretary Kathryn Sullivan says the intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and countries should prepare for “potentially devastating effects.”

Solar storms release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits.

Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a U.N. weather conference in Geneva on Tuesday that “it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet.”