In the next two years, when the sun reaches the peak annual activity cycle 10, there is increased risk of occurrence of solar storms that can disable electrical power source and mainstay of human communication satellites.
“The government of many countries consider this a serious matter,” says Mike Hapgood, space weather specialist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England. “Things like this are rare, but when occurs, the consequences could be such a disaster.”
Hapgood said that solar storms are increasingly being registered as a national disaster risk in order to have treatment planning, along with the tsunami and volcanic explosions.
Statistics also support concerns about solar storms. There is a 12 percent chance that major solar storms will occur in every decade, so the likelihood of one in 100 years. The last time a solar storm occurred was 150 years ago.
Satellite industry is full of secrets
This threat comes from the plasma of solar magnetic issued during a coronal mass ejection (CME) or a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic areas that are released into space. As the air bubbles that burst on the surface of the sun, CME sends tons of gases into the air and can ‘swallow’ the Earth in 1-3 days.
Geomagnetic storms that can bring strong currents generated at power plants that make expensive transformers, power core, the melt.
Power outages that occur in most of India this week was not caused by geomagnetic storms, but can give a picture that will occur when the solar storm coming. The miners could be trapped, the trains do not run, and the hospital could not operate. While this extinction occurred in a country where 40% of the population do not have access to electricity.
According to scientists, these storms can damage or destroy satellites. The cause is electrical particles will tear this satellite at speeds of hundreds of miles per second. Unfortunately, the satellite industry is not openly discuss this issue.
“There are very few who acknowledge that there is a problem,” said Hapgood. He suspects that if there is a company that recognizes there is a problem, then the company will incur a loss commercial.
“The road is still long until the market recognizes that there are global issues here that could give an advantage for people who can cope with space weather.”
Radio communication with the jet can also die when solar storms disturb the ionosphere, the earth’s atmosphere into the path of radio waves.
When there is a threat, an airline will reroute the plane to a lower altitude so it is more sheltered. Things like this do not happen regularly, but not a rare as well, and add fuel expenses.
Probably will not happen
In terms of the insurance industry, the threat is called “low frequency, high damage” and has only recently taken seriously by the government.
“Politically, this insurance you bought three years ago,” says Andrew Richards, analyst at National Grid fatal risks which runs the UK electricity grid. “We know that this is the real impacts but we are still very far from understanding it.”
The team of scientists in North America and Europe spent the day watching the sun and give warning to the government, power companies, satellite operators, and airlines.
However, exactly how much to worry about is still unclear because the understanding of space weather comes from the incident and only work in 20-30 years, the blink of an eye the size of the sun.
In 2003, magnetic storm caused damage and destruction of a satellite 47 satellites worth $ 640 million, according to the British Antarctic Survey, which this year launched the space weather prediction program with EU funding for the satellite industry.
Earlier, in 1989, solar storm was the cause of death of all the electricity network in Quebec, Canada in 90 seconds. As a result millions of people do not have electricity for 9 hours.
But the only storm that could become an example of how solar storms impact of this was before there was a national power grid, Internet, or a massive air travel.
In 1921, magnetic storm caused the demise of the New York Central rail network and disrupt network of telegraph and telephone in the plains of Europe.
But the biggest is Carrinton event in 1859, when British astronomer Richard Carrington observe and record the enormous solar eruptions and only takes 17 hours to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Aurora borealisnya even look up to the southern Caribbean.
Local news reports that people in the northeastern United States could read a newspaper at midnight because the light from the aurora, while the miners in the Rocky Mountains up and preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.
These stories are entertaining, but now with the thousands of active satellites in orbit and around the earth, including the International Space Station, the damage caused by solar storms can cause losses of billions of dollars on private operators such as SES Global and government.
Can not go back to the stone age
It is difficult to calculate how serious the impact the loss of electricity lost to the modern economy, but the report of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States in 2008 is surprising.
Widespread power failure in a few hours will lead, “disruption of transportation, communications, banking, and kuangan systems, and government services; damage to water distribution occurs because the pump failed to work, but well worth the loss of consumption of food and medicine because there is no cooling system . ”
Separate reports from NASA, published in 2007 also estimated the scale of solar storms which cause loss Carrington $ 30 billion satellite operator. This is not counting the loss of revenue of telecommunications and broadcasting companies that depend on this satellite operator, and can cause holes in the network of military security.