In 1859, a huge geomagnetic storm called the Carrington Event, struck Earth. It took down telegraph machines and melted some telegraph wires, a few almost ½ inch in diameter.
Solar storms are potentially always a threat and recent research shows one of the first maps of areas in the U.S. that are at high risk. Other areas such as the Southeast U.S. are also believed to be at extreme risk, but funding for research prevents including other areas as a certainty now.
The map below was built using geomagnetic storm measurements and data from magnetic materials beneath the Earth – revealing Minnesota is particularly at risk of being blasted by solar material. It has measured partially the earth’s magnetic intensity, which is the main driving force for global climate processes (85%), while humans contribute about 15%.
Any solar storm has the potential ability to disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field and therefore our electrical power grid. How much, well that depends on the strength of the storm. But, it could knock entire regional power grids and cascade into others. The electricity in many areas could potentially be out for months. Solar storms do this damage by emitting and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Given the right locations and strong enough solar disruptions, the entire globe could go down in one massive strike; electricity could be gone for months to years.
Are you prepared?
The storms will hit us and do so about every 100 years on a massive scale. Yes, we are long overdue.
If such an event as the one in 1859 occurred today, we would be well, back to 1840 with fireplaces and coal burning lamps in the blink of an eye. Why? Because the EMP won’t just knock out the grid, it will fry all electrical components and circuits. This includes cars and most electronics built after about 1975 or so, televisions, smart phones, satellites, computers, SCADA controls for infrastructure, everything almost is at severe risk. The map below is a good depiction of processes that will be affected today.
Solar Storms are caused by eruptions of built-up electromagnetic energy from the sun’s surface or corona. During these coronal mass ejection (called CME for short) events, loops called magnetic flux ropes arch out from the corona. However, as these loops reach out from the corona they twist and destabilize, causing them to collapse back to the surface, or ‘snap’, resulting in a solar flare. The hot gases produced are accelerated when this magnetic energy is suddenly released and travels quickly towards the Earth. And a solar flare’s ‘killer electrons’ can travel at upwards of 3-million miles per hour and more toward Earth. No outrunning them.
The red and black dots in the first figure above represent areas at the highest risk, green and yellow are the lowest and gray means there is not yet enough data to map a geoelectric hazard.
According to the study, those surges could be up to 100 times more powerful in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin than in other parts of the United States. Again, partly due to the magnetic intensity of the Earth’s core. Minnesota would be a high priority due to the large population metropolitan centers and corresponding electrical power-grid infrastructure. Remember, no electricity, no anything else that you are accustomed to.
In short, in today’s far more advanced and technological world, experts the effects would be devastating. The massive EMP from solar flares could wipe out power grids, bringing an end to modern civilization as we know it as cellphones, credit cards and the internet were rendered useless.
Are you prepared for this? Try this simple experiment. When you get home on Friday night, at 5 pm turn your circuit breaker off so you have absolutely no electricity. Keep it off for 48 hours until 5 pm on Sunday evening. How well did you survive without modern technology, running water, and stove top cooking for this short period? Oh, and, no phones, turn them off too, unless you have an emergency arise.