Archive - October 2018

Our Sun Could Send Us All Back to the 1800’s in the Blink of an Eye

Our Sun Could Send Us All Back to the 1800’s in the Blink of an Eye

Our electrical power grid makes modern life possible.

Lights, heat, air conditioning, water and sewage treatment, food storage and distribution, manufacturing and the production and storage of essential medicines like antibiotics and diabetes drugs all depend on electricity.

Ours is an extremely interdependent society that just doesn’t work without abundant and stable electrical generation and transmission. But this essential foundation for a modern society is far more vulnerable than most people know. Surprisingly, it is our Sun that poses the greatest danger to our electrical grid.

Our Sun occasionally spits out massive solar flares called Coronal Mass Ejections that have the power to melt the electrical grid. There is good news and bad news about this threat. The good news is that we are currently in a Solar Minimum phase with few sunspots and solar storms. This quiet period could last for several more years.

The bad news is it is only a matter of time until a massive solar storm is strong enough to break through the magnetic shield that surrounds Earth (and which usually just produces beautiful Northern Lights when bombarded by high energy solar particles).

It’s happened before. In 1859 a super strong Coronal Mass Ejection hit Earth and melted all the telegraph lines. New lines were strung and life went on. But in 2012 just such a storm missed Earth by two days in our orbit. It woke a lot of people up because we barely dodged a life-changing solar storm that would have destroyed our electrical grid and, overnight, sent America back to the 1800’s.

And let’s state the obvious: life–and what’s needed for life–has changed quite dramatically since 1859. Few people, for example, have a gravity fed water supply or their own food crops or the ability to stay warm without electricity, natural gas or wood burning fireplaces or stoves.

Since 2012, Homeland Security, Congress, NASA, NOAA and DOD as well as Lloyds of London and other experts have taken a close look at what could have happened…and what will eventually happen. The conclusion is that it would require at least ten years to repair the damage and in that time at least 80% of our population would perish from the absence of clean water, medicines, heat and food.

Many also believe that civil society would quickly break down when police radios no longer worked along with gas stations, telephones, televisions and the internet. In fact, just about everything with an integrated circuit that is not protected by “Faraday cages” (electromagnetic shielding) would be rendered non-functional.

Again there is good news and bad news. The grid can be “hardened” so that huge and difficult to manufacture and transport transformers are protected. Transmission lines would have to be replaced but that can be done after such a solar event in a relatively short time. Faraday cages can be easily made at home. The bad news being that, although a known and now extensively studied threat, our government is not planning on hardening essential transformers.

What to do?  Tell your legislators you want our electrical grid protected from a solar storm. And until that happens—prepare to protect your family because, eventually, it’s going to happen.