Thursday, February 7, 2013

Solar Superstorm Only A Matter of Time

The Independent reports:
A solar "superstorm" could knock out Earth's communications satellites, cause dangerous power surges in the national grid and disrupt crucial navigation aids and aircraft avionics, a major report has found.

It is inevitable that an extreme solar storm – caused by the Sun ejecting billions of tonnes of highly-energetic matter travelling at a million miles an hour – will hit the Earth at some time in the near future, but it is impossible to predict more than about 30 minutes before it actually happens, a team of engineers has warned.

Solar superstorms are estimated to occur once every 100 or 200 years, with the last one hitting the Earth in 1859.

Although none has occurred in the space age, we are far more vulnerable now than a century ago because of the ubiquity of modern electronics, they said.

"The general consensus is that a solar superstorm is inevitable, a matter not of 'if' but 'when?'," says a report into extreme space weather by a group of experts at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.
Actually, while we might not be able to predict when one occurs, the time for the solar particles to reach the Earth varies. Generally we have hours or days before the Earth is struck following a mass ejection, giving authorities time to shut down power grids if necessary. Satellites, as mentioned later in the article, are a different matter. Since our modern commerce and military are so dependent on satellites, particularly the GPS satellites, a massive solar storm could disrupt financial transfers and the banking system, as well as blind our military. 

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