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Just What We Need – Something Else To Worry About July 24, 2014

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Science & Technology.
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solarstorm1On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth.  Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts.  The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA  notes. The infamous solar storm of 1921 caused “the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street to be put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.”  global manufacturing capacity for high voltage transformers is estimated to be only about 70 units per year. A repeat of the 1921 space weather event might damage at least several hundred such units worldwide, with replacement of so many transformers taking a year or more

Though it’s impossible for scientists to predict exactly when or where the next solar storm happen, what they do know is that with more sunspots come more stoms. And the fall of 2013 is when the Sun is set to reach the crest of its 11-year sunspot cycle.

via How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth.

Solar Storm Disaster in 2012? March 25, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Science & Technology.
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Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The “perfect storm” is most likely on a spring or autumn night in a year of heightened solar activity – something like 2012. Around the equinoxes, the orientation of the Earth’s field to the sun makes us particularly vulnerable to a plasma strike.

blackout-warningThe projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. “We’re moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster,” says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.

According to the NAS report, the impact of what it terms a “severe geomagnetic storm scenario” could be as high as $2 trillion. And that’s just the first year after the storm. The NAS puts the recovery time at four to 10 years.

via Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe – space – 23 March 2009 – New Scientist.

US Disaster Vulnerability Map February 15, 2008

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Map reveals US disaster hotspots – earth – 12 February 2008 – New Scientist Environment
The resulting indices of vulnerability, going back to 1960 and with a projection to 2010, show a slight decrease in vulnerability nationwide (see map, right). Among the regions where things have got worse are California and the Texas-Mexico border, probably because low-income immigrant populations have settled there.

New York City and San Francisco have the greatest potential for suffering. A highly urbanised population means injuries, fatalities and infrastructure losses would be large, says Cutter. You can see where Florida is now a model for other States. Thanks to EPIC for link. Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0710375105)

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