Solar Storms: A Scary Near Miss!

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Solar Flare

Most people noticed how hot July was back in 2012, but most people don’t realize how close we came to being really fried. A huge solar storm that could have blasted our electrical grid to ruins barely missed the Earth. Whew!

On July 22 and 23 2013, the Earth was nearly slammed by a huge solar storm. Source: NASA

A recent article in Nature Communications journal reported that the sun, which goes through cycles of storminess, had a particularly violent one during that period in July. The sun is made of gas, so the storm emitted a huge cloud of gas into space that passed through Earth’s orbit. The storm and gas (called a CME or Coronal Mass Ejection) flared out from a sunspot aimed at Earth only nine days earlier. Fortunately, the sun spins, so the sunspot moved and the gas shot out in a different direction and missed us.

The storm was huge—so huge that experts report it would have caused a CARRINGTON EVENT!

Huh? What’s that?

The electrical charge from a Carrington Event-sized solar flare could damage satellites, GPS, electrical grids and even pipelines. Source: NASA

Back in 1859, English astronomer Richard Carrington was studying a sunspot when he witnessed it explode with a solar flare that had the energy of 10 billion atomic bombs. Hours later, the gas from the storm hit the Earth. While the Earth’s magnetic field and outer atmosphere protected the globe from most of the impact, the powerful electrical surge from the storm reached the surface. Telegraphs failed, emitting sparks that shocked their operators and set small fires. The aurora from the storm was so bright that people could read by the blood red lights. People reported the sky was on fire as far south as Jamaica.

Fortunately, back then the world didn’t depend on electricity and cell phones. The same sized storm today would fry satellites, GPS, electrical grids and even pipelines, causing between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in damages.

That is what missed us 20 months ago!

Whew!

~ By  Evelyn Browing Garriss and James J. Garriss

About This Blog

Evelyn Browning Garriss doesn't just blog about the weather forecast; she provides insight on WHY extreme weather is happening--and a heads up on weather to watch out for. A historical climatologist, Evelyn blogs about weather history, interesting facts about the weather, and upcoming climate events that affect your life--from farming to your grocery bill. Every week, we look forward to another great weather column from Evelyn. We encourage our weather watchers to post their comments and questions--and tell us what they think!

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Thank you!

Thank you!

The thought of this type of

The thought of this type of event is amazing! There would be chaos at first, but eventually, people would recover. A disaster of biblical proportions, to be sure. People wouldn't be able to text and drive, text everyone, no cyber-bullying. then again, business, self-employed people, communications, yikes.

The good news is that I work

The good news is that I work with utilities that are trying to prepare for this type of event and avoid major breakdowns. There is an international effort, with utilities, observatories and governments around the world that are trying to issue timely warnings.

Very interesting! Keep

Very interesting! Keep bringing us great info!

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