Solar Storms have been plaguing the earth since the beginning of time. The effects of these solar storms until recently had little effect on mankind. The world’s governments have quietly begun taking this threat to our modern way of life very serious as of late. Lets take an in depth look at just what has transpired in the last few years.
Our more modern society didn’t really pay too much attention to solar storms until the Carrington Event of 1859. This was an enormous coronal mass ejection (CME) that carried enough electromagnet energy to overwhelm the Earth protective magnetic field and knock out the only real technology of the time, the telegraph system. The electromagnetic energy carried enough of a punch to shock some of the telegraph operators, and even start fires in some cases.
In March of 1989, a solar storm much less intense than that of 1859 caused a major power grid in Canada covering an entire province to go down for nine hours. It damaged transformers in Quebec, New Jersey, and Great Britain, as well as causing more than 200 power anomalies across the USA. Then in 1994, two communications satellites suffered major malfunctions, disrupting radio, television, and other communications due to a solar storm. Another storm triggered a regional blackout in southern Sweden and may have damaged transformers in South Africa, in October of 2003.
The Earth won the roulette spin, on April 19th, 2010. One of the most massive eruptions in years was observed by NASA’s SDO, but fortunately we were not in the line of fire this time. Again on August 1st 2010, the sun emitted a C-class solar flare that spewed a coronal mass ejecting in our direction. The CME impacted with our magnetic field on August 3rd. This one was only strong enough to provide a brilliant aurora seen down to about the 45th parallel. On Valentines day 2011, a M6.6-category X-ray irradiance magnitude blast was unleashed from our sun. This CME was the largest so far in the current cycle.
As Solar activity is ramping up for the solar maximum projected to peak in late 2012 early 2013, world governments, and organizations are quietly organizing. 2010 marked the 4th year in a row that policy makers, researchers, and legislators gathered in Washington DC to attempt to address issues concerning space weather. To make preparations DC officials held a meeting in June 2010, The Space Weather Enterprise Forum at the National Press Club. Key problems to solve are the coverage of these storms around the planet, how to predict them, and how to stay safe from their effects. Sometimes the problem is so big, one country cannot handle it alone. In November 2010, more than one hundred researchers and government officials met in Egypt, to discuss a matter of global importance: Solar Storms. NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian Federation Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, JAXA, and China, are all making significant contributions.
While it is obvious from recent observations over the last century or more, that solar storms do occur and can have lasting effects on our modern day technology, what is not so obvious is what our governments, and scientists are doing to prepare. We know that they have been meeting with increased frequency, and diversity, but what answers or information have they given us about the very likely upcoming solar storm activity? What instructions have they given us about preparation? The answer to both these questions is “very little.” So stay tuned for the final piece of this series, where we will advise you on how to be prepared for the upcoming Solar Storms and more.