So how does a solar flare emitted by the sun
effect life on Earth?
Over the last couple of decades
solar scientists have begun to realize just how
connected the Earth and the sun are via magnetic
fields, these are essentially channels for solar
events to stream along, What that does to the
Earth's magnetic field is have a major effect on
anything tapping into the electromagnetic spectrum.
Electricity and magnetism are very tightly
linked; change one and the other is going to change
as well. So any form of magnetic activity is going
to produce electric fields and those are going to
occur around the Earth. They're a problem in that
anything electronic taps into them, and a couple of
volts in the wrong place and whatever you're holding
onto is broken, the circuit burns out.
Solar activity has been affecting life here
since origins, but it's only now that we're tapping
into the electromagnetic spectrum that we're
particularly vulnerable to it.
To illustrate the point, you only have to look
back to the
Carrington Event of September
On that day,
the sun released a solar flare that was the
equivalent of about 10 billion Hiroshima bombs
exploding at the same time. If the Carrington event happened today,
the effect would be devastating.
you stopped people in the street and asked
them what worries them, it's fairly certain
they'd talk about terrorism, climate change,
banking collapses and nuclear war. A solar
storm wouldn't be up there, but it should be.
This is why we prep.
it's one of the top five threats that
humanity faces at the moment. It's not as
cataclysmic as nuclear fallout but it's not
To take just one example, but an
important one, the way we are supplied with
electricity would be crippled. All the lines are linked by
transformers, and if you lost say 20 per
cent of them, it would have a huge effect. They are very expensive and take months
to make and ship to wherever they are
needed. The scary thing is that the power
companies rarely hold back-ups of these
If you turned off the electricity
tomorrow, you wouldn't be able to power
your appliances, it's possible your vehicles
will not operate because gas pumps wouldn't
work – the entire power grid would be fried. It would set us back to the
pre-industrial age and would take in the
order of years to recover.
A solar storm would also not be
even-handed in how it hit the Earth. Because
of reasons to do with the conductivity of
the soil, geomagnetic latitude and the
infrastructure of the power grid, North
America and Europe would be worst hit, while
most of India and China would escape,
meaning a huge shift in the balance of world
But if all this seems a bit depressing,
rest assured that the alarm bells are
beginning to ring in Congress thanks to
leaders like Congressmen Trent Franks and
Roscoe Bartlett. You can go some way to preventing
solar storm catastrophe. You could make the power
infrastructure more robust, you could
localize and isolate the damage. There are
things we can do to better prepare
ourselves, but forecasting will be a major
step forward. If we knew a major solar flare
was coming in a couple of days there are
things we could do, such as shutting down
certain parts of the electricity network. It
would be inconvenient but a 24-hour power
cut is better than a twelve-month power cut.
Having looked into the abyss, I wonder if
it keeps any of you up at night?
When you think that
we have roughly a 50/50 chance of experiencing such
an event in our lifetime, it really does
strike home for me. Agree?
man-made threats, we have no control of the
mood of our nearest star.