Massive Solar Storm Threatens Grid

Spikes in Solar Activity:
Are Major Disruptions Ahead?

Right now our sun is at a “solar peak.” Solar activity increased rapidly in mid-May of 2013, and produced four consecutive strong flares in just two days. We’re seeing more solar flares and coronal mass ejections than usual.

It’s exciting for astronomers who study the sun. And it’s part of the sun’s natural cycle. But just because it’s part of the sun’s natural cycle doesn’t mean that this kind of solar activity is nothing to worry about. Solar events can have a big impact on your day-to-day life.

The most common effect is a disruption in communications. Radio signals get scrambled for a couple of hours. Your Internet connection might be spotty for a little while. But those are just a minor display of what could happen during a major solar event. We have some idea of what that would be like because it’s happened before.

What if 1859 happened today?

In 1859 a giant coronal mass ejection – a bubble of superheated particles – escaped the sun and bombarded the earth. The northern lights were seen as far south as the equator. The U.S. telegraph system was so overloaded that in some offices, equipment sparked and caused fires. Imagine if that same level of disruption occurred today!

A much milder but more recent event wiped out the electrical grid in Quebec for two weeks in 1990. Our power grid is extensive and interconnected. It sprawls across the county, and a problem in one area can trigger a cascade of events that brings a large section of the grid down. That means that a large disturbance from a solar storm could hit just part of our grid, overloading it. The fluctuating currents and voltage surges that result could radiate outward, crashing much, if not all, of the grid.

Worse yet, the same effect could destroy any electrical devices that are in the vicinity of surges, even if they’re not plugged in.

Think for just a moment, what a pain it is when your computer dies. The cost of replacement… the concern about lost data… lost productivity time. Now imagine everyone in your neighborhood needs a new computer at the exact same time. What if it were everyone in your city? Demand and costs would go through the roof. You’d face long wait times. How long can you really go without your computer before it takes a dramatic toll on your quality of life? Talk about a nightmare.

And that’s just scratching the surface, because literally all of your electrical devices would need replacing at the same time. Your neighbors would need replacement devices too. A major solar event capable of knocking out the power grid would also be likely to destroy communications satellites, setting back Internet and cell phone networks by decades.

So, the power is out. The Internet is down. Your electrical devices are toast. And so are everyone else’s. How long does it take the nation to recover from something like that? And what would life look like in the meantime?

Preparing for a Disruptive Solar Event

If you’re an average American, you rely on electricity and communications technology in almost every aspect of your life.

Money: A massive solar storm that disrupts power and communications would mean no access to bank accounts. Banks store information digitally. Your bank won’t be able to access your balance, so no money for you. The almighty Dollar may be suffering under liberal policies, but you should still keep a reserve of actual cash on hand for emergencies, including massive power outages.

Food: Inventory systems the world over rely on power. Fresh cuts of meat and dairy products need refrigeration. If the power goes down for a long period, expect massive confusion and panic at your local food market. Food will be scarce and prohibitively expensive. Economic markets are powerful, so eventually this will normalize, but you need a food reserve on hand that can sustain you until the chaos has passed… at least 30 days worth. Six months would be better.

Work: We’re willing to bet your job relies on electricity. If the power is down, you probably won’t be working. And that means your income will be interrupted. Again, have cash on hand. Store up bartering items. And learn a useful skill that you can trade for what you need until things settle down.

Transportation: Planes will stop flying. Trains will stop running. Modern cars may be rendered useless. The face of transportation will change in the event of a direct hit from a massive solar storm. Learn more about your local economy. Buy a bike and keep it in good repair. Consider an older car that doesn’t rely on electronic circuitry to function.

Solar storms happen. They are simply a fact of life. And it’s only a matter of time before an event similar to the one in 1859 happens again… only this time the damage would be more widespread and far more devastating. Make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.