A solar flare does not have to possess an intensity as significant as the Carrington Event of 1859 in order to take down the entire US power grid, according to NASA scientist Lika Guhathakurta.
The astrophysicist and heliophysics expert broke from conventional wisdom in saying a large coronal mass ejection (CME) far weaker than the 1859 flare could wreak extreme havoc on our technology-driven society.
“CMEs are this massive amount of energized, magnetized particles that are essentially belched out by the sun from time to time. These structures can be huge, huge, much bigger than our planet, other bigger planets,” Guhatakurta said.
The NASA scientist made the comments during a Peak Prosperity podcast.
“I think to bring our modern society to a halt, I do not think we need an event that is as large as a Carrington Event,” she said. “It could be much smaller, simply because of the connectedness of our power grid and also the entire technological system. We do not know how to operate without our GPS system.
“What’s interesting is that we used to think that this kind of low-probability, high-impact event happens every 100 years or so. Some researchers are doing calculations that suggest that the probability could be much higher: 10-12 percent. Now, that probability that they are referring to is that a solar storm will be that severe. But as to its impact — we still know very little about that.”
A downed power grid would change life as we know it more than virtually any other doomsday scenario ever could. Should the power grid go down for just a single week, it is estimated approximately 1 million Americans likely would die from a lack of medical care and sanitation, and from civil unrest. If the power grid stays down a year, two-thirds of the population (200 million people) would die from starvation and lawlessness, according to the EMP Commission report to Congress.
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The NASA scientist, like many other space weather experts, believes Earth dodged a bullet during a July 2012 solar storm event, in which a massive storm barely missed our planet. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, former EMP Commission member Peter Vincent Pry said that a “Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed [in 2012]. Basically, this is a Russian roulette thing. We narrowly escaped from a Carrington-class disaster.”
Sensitive computer equipment, life-saving machines used in hospitals, electrical systems in modern vehicles, cell phones and a multitude of other commonly used gadgets would cease to function.
Guhathakurta scaled back the scientific speak during the podcast, making it easy to understand how solar flare “size” is judged and just how disastrous it would have been had the 2012 flare been Earth-directed. The world would have a warning of perhaps a day, and at the most three days, she said. But too much is unknown.
“Often the bigger storms have happened during the declining phase of the solar cycle, and that is what we are beginning. … We are actually going now into the declining phase of the solar cycle. So, the point I would like to make is that we really do not know enough and we cannot take our eyes off of the sun heliosphere system.”
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