A coronal mass ejection (CME) was spotted by NASA on July 22. CME eruptions on the sun can cause billions of solar particles to hurl into space, impacting electrical systems here on Earth. The recent CME spotted by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) revealed that the fast-moving solar flare was thankfully not directed at the planet. The solar eruption left the sun at around 715 miles per second and made a pass around NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft.
The sun is hitting the peak of its 11-year cycle and some scientists predict we are headed for a powerful solar storm. NASA and NOAA experts appear to agree on only one thing—the unpredictability of solar flares. Although CMEs do not pose any real health risk to humans or animals, a Carrington Event size solar flare could cause a significant death toll.
The Carrington Event occurred in 1859 and is the largest recorded solar storm in history. The most advanced form of technology during the mid-1800s was the telegraph. Sparks from local telegraph machines caught papers from nearby desks on fire and understandably shocked countless operators. Daily life was only momentarily and slightly interrupted by the Carrington Event solar flare; however, the scenario created by a powerful CME would be vastly different today.
If such a strong solar flare occurred now, the incredibly vulnerable power grid would most likely go down. Life without electricity would cause not only deaths from a lack of medical care, grocery store food availability, and temperature-controlled homes, but from relentless civil unrest as well. Getting the power grid back online would require more than just the flip of a switch; it would take months or possibly years to repair the system.
As previously noted by Off The Grid News, a Lloyd’s of London report cited in the ongoing SHIELD Act bill painted a dire picture of life on Earth after a massive solar storm.
Report co-author Neil Smith had this to say about the potential hazards of an Earth-directed CME:
“We are estimating that 20 to 40 million people might be without power from anywhere up to one, even two years. That has to do with the critical issue of replacement transformers. That number of people without power could result in an economic cost somewhere between $.6 trillion to $2.6 trillion.”
The new solar storm report focused solely on North America. If a severe solar storm had a larger global impact, the repair time would increase substantially, according to some experts. As we all well know, hardly anything is made in America anymore. Garnering the necessary transformers from overseas would be virtually impossible in a two-year time frame if European factories were rendered inoperable.
The economic cost estimate by Smith could also be significantly low. The loss of personal property from solar flare induced transformer and electrical line fires would devastate entire cities. Americans who have not prepared for disaster scenarios would likely panic within a matter of days. FEMA predicts that grocery store shelves would be bare within three days, but it would probably only take hours. When foul weather is predicted, the sole supermarket in our county is nearly emptied. Food would likely disappear even more quickly should a large scale disaster occur. Any store which did not have an armed owner and equally well-equipped pals inside 24/7 would also soon be liberated of their stock.
Scientists at the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado track CMEs that rush around the solar system at speeds of five million kilometers per hour. Solar flares of this magnitude have the power to reach Earth in less than two days. Warning time for a solar storm will come about three days ahead of time if we are really lucky, but no one should leave the lives of their loved ones to chance.
Colorado scientists Michael Wiltberger had this to say about coronal mass ejection tracking:
“The real challenge that we have, that we are struggling with and trying to build into our numerical models, is to understand what the magnetic field is going to be inside this hot gas that is coming out. Because it’s that magnetic field that is the key that unlocks the entry of energy and mass into the Earth’s, near-Earth’s region.”
The models the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research are currently working on could provide the “framework” for improved storm monitoring and CME prediction, but it will not be ready for about five more years.
Two or three days warning before a massive solar storm is not enough time to learn the survival skills necessary to make it in a world without power. While preppers and off-the-grid families are bugging in or quickly on the way to their bug out location, a too large portion of the population will take to the streets in a frantic state. It will not take long for violence to ensue and an economic collapse of epic proportion to begin.
Lloyd’s of London report co-author Smith is calling for increased cooperation on mitigating the impact of a massive solar flare on a global scale. The SHIELD Act, which is the first real piece of legislation to be reviewed by Congress in far too long, is stalled in committee. The mainstream media rarely reports on CME issues and the potentially life-saving legislation is garnering few headlines and virtually no television air time. It is far easier to dismiss the solar flare issue as merely a prepper fascination than to deal with the real possibilities of another Carrington Event size coronal mass ejection.
Smith had this to add about the need to remain focused on CME issues:
“We are just raising awareness of the issue, because step one is to get different parties aware that this is a potential issue. And then we need to work with governments and the utility industry to tackle it. It’s not something that any one party could actually solve on their own.”
Neil Smith accurately noted that work on the solar storm front is critically important and necessary to avoid societal chaos and economic collapse on a vast scale. Investing in the antiquated and overly-taxed power grid is non-partisan and should be able to gain traction even in this Congress, but sadly it is not. Discussions about the vulnerable condition of the power grid have been ongoing for more than a decade, yet nothing has been done to correct major issues or to educate the public about the dangers. Maybe after the politicians in Washington, D.C. reduce our dependence upon foreign oil and achieve peace in the Middle East they will finally get around to addressing power grid issues.
In other words, when pigs fly.