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Micky Gramlin
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Micky Gramlin   My Press Releases

The Carrington Event Today

Published on 8/9/2017
For additional information  Click Here

 

Image may contain: night

By 

Ellen

owlcation.com

December 13, 2016

 

The Solar storm of 1859—known as the Carrington Event—was a powerful geomagnetic solar storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867). A solar coronal mass ejection hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, September 1–2, 1859. Wikipedia

 

You can read about the historic event and the chaos that the Solar Storm of 1859, often referred to as the Carrington Event, caused here on my first post 

The Carrington Event

After reading about the event and publishing it, I got to wondering what would it be like for the modern day world if it were to occur right now.

There are three things to worry about:

  • Power outages. Severe solar storms are similar to the EMP of a nuclear detonation. A multi-state power outage, especially one that lasts many hours, could cause major disruptions.
  • Temporary disruption of communications. GPS devices (used by airplanes and ships for navigation), radio, wireless and wired communication could all be disrupted so that we could not pass or receive signals. This would be especially bad for emergency and utilities services racing to deal with problems. People trapped in elevators would be vulnerable, as there would be no way to call for help.
  • Actual damage to wires and electronics. Our computers and devices might experience glitches, but would probably suffer no permanent damage. Satellites are more vulnerable, lacking the protection of the atmosphere, although the Earth's magnetic field extends out far enough to offer them some protection. Also, what about nuclear power plants

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The most serious risk is that ground-based power lines, which already have a lot of current running through them, could burn out and suffer widespread damage that might take months to repair. A multi-hour blackout over several states is a major inconvenience.

Widespread damage to the world's power grid would be a more serious disaster, disrupting food transportation and storage, the global economy, fuel supplies, hospitals, and other essential services. We could be dependent on emergency services working under difficult circumstances for an extended period of time.

That's the worst-case scenario that doomsday buffs get excited about. It's unlikely, but a solar flare as large as the 1859 event could do it.

At least, that's the hope. Unfortunately, it sounds like this system is not entirely ready. A 2010 Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act of the U.S. Congress predicts that it may cost $100 million to protect the United States' power grid against solar EMPs. Without that protection, Congress estimates trillions of dollars in damages and 4 to 10 years to recover, should a Carrington-scale event catch us unprepared.

One thing we do not have to worry about too much is increased radiation risk for air travel. While the radiation bombarding planes is higher during a solar flare, the radiation spike is equivalent to an x-ray, less than that from a CT-scan. Airline personnel need to worry about long-term accumulated radiation, but solar flares do not significantly increase this problem.

 

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Bottom Line: What Are the Chances of an 1859-Style Flare?

Most massive solar flares do NOT send us "back to the stone age," as the doomsayers warn. We've weathered some powerful solar flares in 2010-2011, and we'll weather many more with little or no disruption. Just how likely is it that we might get hit with a dangerous CME as big as the 1859 flare, and how seriously should we take warnings and precautions?

As one scientist puts it, "Extreme events like the 1859 Carrington Event are 1-in-100-year probabilities, about the same probability as a storm of the level of Katrina hitting New Orleans – and New Orleans did not build their defenses to withstand the extreme-but-unlikely magnitude." ~ Dr. Ruth Bamford, quoted in this Telegraph article

That is, we should treat the risk as we would the risk of major earthquakes or other unusual disasters: an individual's chances of being in one are slim, but they happen sooner or later, and we don't want to be caught unprepared.

 

Thank you for stopping by!

 

Micky Gramlin

 

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The Carrington Event

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Greekgeek profile imageDaughter of a rocket engineer, granddaughter of a planetarium director, I've been a huge fan of astronomy and space exploration all my life.

 

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