Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Solar Storm Could Knock Out Power for Months on Parts of Earth.

By Kenneth Chang

In 1859 the Sun erupted, and on Earth wires shot off sparks that shocked telegraph operators and set their paper on fire.

It was the biggest geomagnetic storm in recorded history. The eruption sent billions of tons of electrons and protons whizzing toward Earth, and when those particles slammed into the planet’s magnetic field they created spectacular auroras of red, green and purple in the night skies — along with powerful currents of electricity that flowed out of the ground into the wires, overloading the circuits.

If such a storm struck in the 21st century, much more than paper and wires would be at risk. Some telecommunications satellites high above Earth would be disabled. GPS signals would be scrambled. And the surge of electricity from the ground would threaten electrical grids, perhaps plunging a continent or two into darkness.

Scientists say it is impossible to predict when the next monster solar storm will erupt — and equally important, whether Earth will lie in its path. What they do know is that with more sunspots come more storms, and this fall the Sun is set to reach the crest of its 11-year sunspot cycle.

Sunspots are regions of turbulent magnetic fields where solar flares originate. Their ebb and flow have been observed for centuries, but only in the past few decades have solar scientists figured out that magnetic fields within the spots can unleash the bright bursts of light called solar flares and the giant eruptions of charged particles known as coronal mass ejections.

Read the rest here.


  1. Another Krugman-approved path out of recession.

  2. All hail to the Sun, the Great Job Creator. Just imagine the stimulus. Oh, we could only be so lucky.