Solar Storms Could Be Threat in 2013
Updated: Monday, 07 Jun 2010, 10:44 AM EDT
Published : Monday, 07 Jun 2010, 10:44 AM EDT
(CANVAS STAFF REPORTS) - NASA has come up with a new way for the Earth to be destroyed – solar storms.
"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said NASA scientist Richard Fisher in a release . "At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we're getting together to discuss."
The discussion at the Space Weather Enterprise Forum 2010 to be held on June 8 in Washington, D.C. will focus on the "next peak of solar activity expected in 2013."
The National Academy of Sciences released a report two years ago entitled "Severe Space Weather Events – Societal and Economic Impacts." It warned that a solar activity storm could "could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina."
Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.
There is hope, NASA said, putting satellites in 'safe mode' and disconnecting transformers can protect them from damaging electrical surges. Also NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo. would have the job of predicting solar activity in time that the nation could prepare.
A huge solar flare caused a geomagnetic storm on September 1-2, 1859 that swept over Earth. NASA Science News reported that within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires, while the Northern Lights, solar-induced phenomena more closely associated with regions near Earth's North Pole, were documented as far south as Rome, Havana and Hawaii, with similar effects at the South Pole.
Scientists are preparing for the modern day equivalent of such a cycle as the sun's solar cycle is expected to peek at about the same level in May 2013 as it did in 1859.
NPR reported that government officials said such a storm could leave millions of people without electricity, running water or phone service. That was the conclusion after taking part in a tabletop exercise that looked at what might happen today if the Earth would see such a storm.
"A contemporary repetition of the (1859) event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions," FOX News quoted researchers as saying.
Solar storms occur when an eruption or explosion on the sun's surface sends radiation or electrically charged particles toward the Earth. Minor storms can interfere with radio signals. A large one can release as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs, according to the NPR repport.
As far as what ordinary people should do? Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said to NPR that the standard emergency kit containing food, water and first aid supplies should work fine.