A Solar ‘Katrina’ Storm? Seriously?

August 17, 2010 § 9 Comments

“Historically large storms have a potential to cause power grid blackouts and transformer damage of unprecedented proportions. An event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters we could face,” he declares. A bluff, friendly man, half science nerd, half overgrown farm boy, Kappenman insists that solar EMP blasts the size of those that occurred in 1859 (before society was electrified) and 1921 (before the power grid had developed to the point where it played any significant role) would today result in large-scale blackouts lasting for months or years.

via Lawrence E. Joseph: The Solar ‘Katrina’ Storm That Could Take Our Power Grid Out For Years.

Earthly catastrophies aren’t the only natural forces with the potential to bring our systems down.  The impact of a solar storm could be enormous. Extreme. And no graceful degradation either. Millions of people without power. Distribution of drinkable water disrupted. Transportation, and communication returning to cart and snailmail levels respectively, if not worse. Economy at a total stop. Due to humans’ heavy reliance on electronic devices, it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Satellite navigation systems. Dignity out the door.

More effects on Earth ~ cosmic sing along and art

Intense solar activity can destroy ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere, and affect climactic temperatures. A drought may be a consequence.

Scientists from the Ulysses mission have proven that sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. They have found that Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along.

via ESA – Space Science – Moving to the rhythm of the Sun.

And

July 27, 2010: Researchers using NASA’s fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake and plays a key role in sparking bright Northern Lights. They call it “the spacequake.”

A spacequake is a temblor in Earth’s magnetic field. It is felt most strongly in Earth orbit, but is not exclusive to space. The effects can reach all the way down to the surface of Earth itself.

via Spacequakes Rumble near Earth – NASA Science.

Is a ‘Katrina’ storm likely?

Looking at geological data statistically, such a solar storm has a low probability. Happens only now and then, one of those “only once-in-a-lifetime events”? But that answer is just statistical. Besides, I am 48 and it hasn’t happened in my lifetime yet. Are there any signs that this might actually happen soon or may already be happening?

Nasa warns solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation. Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013.

Around every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots – or flares – hits a maximum level every some 11 years. Dr. Fisher says these two events would combine in 2013 to produce huge levels of radiation.

And how prepared are we really, for such a worst case scenario?

Not on an international level (yet). Not on a national level (yet). Not in utilities and business (yet). Individually, some of us, yes.

Something I don’t want to do is make anyone afraid. Fear isn’t useful. Don’t prepare out of a sense of fear or panic. Do it from a positive, forward looking philosophy. Maybe those of us that can will prepare individually (too). Preparedness is neither a simple kit nor a plan. It’s a mind set. Mostly, just get your stuff and mind-set together.

Make yourself as independent of electronic devices and non-local economies as possible. Self-sustainability is not just for woolly health freaks fed by a hippie ideology. It’ll be utterly practical.

And some of the earlier Earthly Katrina lessons may prove useful for the years the Solar Katrina storms on Earth.

Industries ~ Huffington Post again

We have been through these before, but we weren’t as dependent on the grid as we are now.

It turns out that the grid can be protected from solar EMP devastation by outfitting it with surge suppressors, much like the ones that protect our computers and plasma televisions at home. In a nutshell, solar EMP blasts hit the Earth and discharge massive electrical currents into the planet’s surface, some of which current surges back up and into the grid. Surge suppressors placed between the surface and the transformer would protect the transformer from the space weather-induced electrical currents coming up from the ground.

Money is not the problem.

The real impediment, one might observe, is the resistor built into the psyche of the electrical utility industry, which spends only between 0.3% and 2% of its revenues, depending on the estimate, on research and development.

The utility industry’s objections to implementing a space weather defense program are thus more inertial than economic. Why go to all the trouble of preventing a space weather blackout when no (serious) one has ever happened, at least not in the United States? Then, there’s the commonsense reluctance to complicate a system that has thus far functioned so admirably. Inserting surge suppressors would also require installing high speed switching circuits to bypass the transformers when necessary, yet another “moving part” that could potentially break down. Aggravating matters further is the inescapable fact that the more complex the network, the less control grid operators have over it.

via Lawrence E. Joseph: The Solar ‘Katrina’ Storm That Could Take Our Power Grid Out For Years.

So, that part of the impact could be prevented by the utilities industry and government, easily, at least in the US. I have found nothing yet about the state(s) of the utility industries around the world.

My 2 cents

I am NOT going to give my power away and depend on others waking up in time and getting their stuff and mindset together! I am singing along with the cosmos! 🙂 I will be as little as possible dependent on any system larger than what I can maintain myself (or with a small group of response-able people) to survive myself and my family.

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