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Increase In Solar Flares Threaten Power Grid

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Solar flare activity has increased significantly in recent days. There have been a total of four X Class solar flares [1] since Mother’s Day last Sunday. While none of the coronal mass ejections (CME [2]) were Earth-directed, NOAA now expects the active region to be facing Earth by this weekend. The first X Class solar flares of 2013 went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. If just one of the CMEs had been directed at Earth, the power grid would likely have gone down, ended life as we know it, and resembled a scene from Rob Underhill’s award-winning The Carrington Event [3] series.

The solar flare [4] which occurred on May 14 was the largest, registering at 3.2 on the activity scale. An X Class solar flare that erupted on May 13 registered at 2.8 on the activity scale, according to NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. The two Mother’s Day solar flares occurred about 14 hours apart. The second flare was the third strongest in the past eight years.

A NASA [5] report about the three X Class solar flares revealed that the solar activity on May 13 was associated with a CME which sent charged particles into space. Our overtaxed and antiquated power grid could easily have crashed, prompting a civil unrest scenario of epic proportions.

An excerpt from the NASA solar flare report reads:

“Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at approximately 1,400 miles per second, which is particularly fast for a CME. The models suggest that it will catch up to the two CMEs associated with the earlier flares. The merged cloud of solar material will pass by the Spitzer spacecraft and may give a glancing blow to the STEREO-B and Epoxi spacecraft. Their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material.”

As the sun works through its 11-year cycle, solar activity is expected to increase as it reaches the solar maximum stage. The strongest solar flare of this cycle happened on August 9, 2011; the flare registered a 6.9 on the activity scale. A powerful solar flare which occurred last year temporarily kicked military satellites offline.

Solar flares are essentially strong radiation bursts, but scientists do not feel that harmful radiation can pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and cause physical problems for humans and animals. NASA and NOAA experts cannot seem to agree on solar flare predictions for the remainder of this 11-year cycle. The space weather researchers only discovered how solar flares were formed during the past 20 years.

Concerns that a solar storm [6] equal to the magnitude of the 1859 Carrington Event [7] could hit the Earth prompted some scientists to urge Congress to quickly address the power grid’s frailties. The governing body chose to ignore the experts’ pleas. Statistically speaking, a massive solar storm is likely to occur about every 100 to 200 years. During the Carrington Event, the Earth was bombarded with a wave of “energetic particles” and then a massive solar flare.

Harness the power of the sun for your energy needs… [8]

Telegraph poles and wires caught fire and papers on operator’s desks were also reportedly set ablaze. Imagining the immediate death and destruction which a Carrington Event strength solar flare would cause in our modern world is a very sobering proposition. During a recent conversation with One Second After [9] author Dr. William Forstchen, he aptly noted that projected death toll figures in a grid-down scenario are decidedly low. Government officials and scientists did not take into account the immediate deaths and fires caused when thousands of airplanes in the sky at any given moment crash during a solar flare. Firefighters and EMTs will not be able to rush to such accident scenes to put out fires or offer medical aid.

Any patient dependent upon electricity to sustain life will also perish rather quickly. Once the oxygen tanks of the ill residing at home or assisted-living centers run dry, they will also become solar flare casualties. Grocery store shelves would empty quickly, leaving those who do not have a backyard garden or long-term food items stored on their shelves to starve.

Should the power grid go down for just a single week, approximately one million Americans will likely die. Many scientists agree that such a doomsday [10] scenario would also cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage. With the very existence of such a significant segment of society on the line, a logical person would think that the government would be taking the idea of a massive solar storm far more seriously.

Solar geomagnetic researcher John Kappenman recently authored an Oak Ridge National Laboratory report about power disruptions which could cause serious issues for the electrical distribution system.

An excerpt from the Kappenman report reads:

“Geomagnetic storm environments can develop instantaneously over large geographic footprints. They have the ability to essentially blanket the continent with an intense threat environment and … produce significant collateral damage to critical infrastructures. In contrast to well-conceived design standards that have been successfully applied for more conventional threats, no comprehensive design criteria have ever been considered to check the impact of the geomagnetic storm environments. The design actions that have occurred over many decades have greatly escalated the dangers posed by these storm threats for this critical infrastructure.”

The power grid [11] has expanded approximately tenfold during the past five decades. The typical substation transformer is more than 40 years old. Ironically, the older substation transformers may be less vulnerable than newer ones due to the low-level technological components previously used to create the transformers.

Regardless of which substation transformer would be better able to withstand an X Class solar flare, the availability of replacement transformers is a major problem. Neither the federal government nor power companies have a big warehouse somewhere with backup transformers stored inside Faraday cages just in case the grid goes down.

By most estimates, it would take a minimum of three months to possibly an entire year to garner new transformers – they are not made in America. If a grid-down scenario impacts the entire planet, the companies in China and elsewhere which make the components necessary to repair the power grid will not be able to manufacture spare parts and ship them to America.

Preparing for a power-grid-down scenario should occur now, not in the 15 minutes of warning the mainstream media will offer the uninformed as billions of energized particles are hurdling towards Earth.