How Much Damage Will a Big Solar Storm Actually Cause?
By Meal Kit Supply on Mar 17, 2015
“Solar storm” sounds like a contradiction in terms, but they pose a pretty big threat to us thanks to our increased reliance on sensitive electronic devices. Though they don’t physically hurl anything at Earth, the UN recognizes solar storms as concerns “on par with orbital debris and close approaching asteroids.”
X-class solar flares are the most powerful type of solar storm, and thus pose the greatest threat to our telecommunication grid. Just last week, an X-2 solar flare (which is twice as intense as an X-1 solar flare) erupted; one of six substantial flares we’ve experienced since October 19, 2014.
The biggest solar storm on record is known as the Carrington Event, and it happened in 1859-before our reliance on technology. The storm took place during a solar maximum, scientists say, and it was twice as big as any other solar storm in the past 500 years.
Now fast-forward to our technology-driven years.
In 1989, a flare knocked out power for 6 million people throughout Canada and New Jersey by disrupting electric power transmission from the Hydro Quebec generating station.
On Bastille Day in 2000, an X-5 caused satellites to short-circuit and led to radio blackouts. It was followed by a whopping X-28 in 2003, which remains the strongest flare ever recorded. It overwhelmed the spacecraft sensor measuring it, and so the extent of its impact is unknown.
A 2006 flare “disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes,” according to NASA.
What about on a smaller scale? Think about all the things you use that require GPS or real time: Phones, road transport, satellite TV, internet, banking…the list goes on. Now imagine all of those things stopped working for people globally. Calamity.
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