Solar Storms: Their Impact and How To Prepare
mass ejections occur most frequently at the peak of the 11 year
solar cycle. Statistics show that Earth will get a direct hit from
a major solar mass ejection every about every 500 years. This estimate
comes from the number of solar mass ejections we see and frequency.
Now figure in the size of the Earth versus the size of the solar
mass ejection. The calculation is similar to the odds of a pin landing
on a particular point on a globe, except Earth is the pin and the
globe is the sun. In the end, we can estimate that Earth will get
hit every 500 years or so by a flare large enough to affect our
mean that life will end when the next one hits. Solar storms come
in different intensities. The impact of a solar mass ejection our
civilization will depend on its strength and the technology we think
we need to get by.
in orbit are the most sensitive when it comes to solar radiation.
They lack the protection of Earth's atmosphere. Those satellites
on the side of the Earth that is facing the Sun during a major solar
flare would have component failures. However, not all satellites
would be lost. There are different designs of satellites, with some
more shielded [or "hardened"] than others. Satellites
on the back side of Earth couldn't be affected unless the solar
flare and its accompanying radiation showered the Earth for many
hours as the satellite's rotation brought it to the day side. And
variations in the Earth's magnetic field could offer protection
to some satellites. We would see a mix of charred, failing and fully
functional satellites. We cant know when a flare will hit
except for the likelihood of it occurring during the peak of the
solar cycle, so no nation can protect all of its satellites by keeping
them on the night side of the Earth.
Your Best Defense Against This
on GPS or Global Positioning Satellite Systems for navigation. Know
your route or know how to get there with only paper maps. And never
rely on GPS-based geocaching to find hidden supplies in an emergency.
If we see a massive release of solar radiation that is the natural
equivalent of an Electromagnetic
Pulse (EMP) weapon, then your GPS capability will probably be
designed to prevent overloads will protect most of the transformers
connected to long Alternating Current or AC power transmission lines.
However, some transformers will get overloaded by the field strength
of a solar flare or solar storm. The bad news is that this means
that utility crews will still have to replace hundreds of transformers
in addition to resetting thousands of circuit breakers where the
safety equipment prevented the transformer from overloading. This
is a slow process, and it is hampered by the fact that we
dont have a huge stockpile of transformers for a disaster
of this scale. (Although stockpiling spare transformers has been
recommended as a step to minimize the impact of a nuclear weapon
or EMP pulse weapon unleashed on the United States.) The task is
made more complex by the need to bring thousands of [power plants
and] power lines back on line and in [phase] sync to restore the
[three] power grids in CONUS]. [JWR Adds: The manufacturing lead
times for large transformers are as long as 24 months!]
systems would be massively disrupted for anything greater than a
mid-scale flare, but the power distribution system would be spotty
failures for anything less than mid-scale flares. These failure
rates will be affected by any improvements in the overload protection
devices that hopefully have been made since the
Northeast Blackout of 1965. If the recommended overload protections
were put in place and maintained, the size and scope of outages
would be reduced.
Defense Against This
know how to disconnect your home from the local power grid as soon
as you have warning of imminent power disruptions, [via your main
breaker.] At a minimum, have the means on hand to live a few weeks
without electricity. It would be better to have renewable power
sources or a generator and fuel stores on your property.
itself will go mostly dark. Why? Imagine what happens if 99% of
the servers go off line. They have not all been destroyed. They
simply need power to be available. Without the power grids up, the
Internet will be crippled.
will be without power due to the damage to the power grid. Those
servers that are still running will be isolated by power outages
to the hubs they use to transmit information. A functional server
in a computer room is a hub in the Internet. If it cannot connect
to the major nodes to relay information then it might as well be
turned off. And in an emergency like this, facilities running off
of generator-supplied power will focus on properly shutting down
rather than keeping extra servers running once theyve backed
up their data.
lines will be okay. However, with the disruption of power in the
AC transmission lines, means that the fiber optics will be "dark"
until they get power again. Those relying on Skype or Internet access
will be left in the dark, since fiber optic lines won't run without
power, and the backup option of Internet via satellite will not
be an option.
Defense Against This
methods of contacting family members, such as [FRS , GMRS, or MURS]
walkie-talkies and ham radio. Document everyones phone number
in a [hard copy] address book, and make multiple copies so that
you can find their contact information even if the Internet is essentially
Back up your
data locally, regardless of whether or not you perform online backups.
Have local sources of any information that you frequently reference.
And make sure you have entertainment on hand that does not rely
on an Internet connection.
batteries are relatively immune to solar flares. They receive power
from the battery and so will remain operational until the battery
runs out. [If disconnected from outside power or data cables] they
will not get fried by a solar flare. However, they could be ruined
by an EMP weapon [if in very close proximity]. Desktop computers
will be in worse shape. The thousands of miles of power, phone,
and Ethernet cables connecting many desktop computers act like long
antennas, picking up the voltage generated by the solar mass ejection.
The cables connecting the computers thus have the potential to damage
desktop computers [or any laptops that are connected.]
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