Apocalypse Any Minute: The Sun Storm Scenario

A solar flare recorded Dec. 5, 2006, by the X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite. The flare was so intense, it actually damaged the instrument that took the picture.

Add to the list of mortal threats to the continued existence of the industrial age another inevitable, natural event to which we have exposed the throat of our machine. You may know about the threat of solar storms — I wrote about it here in January of 2011 (“A Solar Powered Blackout”) — but did you know that one of the consequences of a strong one will be the moral equivalent of a nuclear war — a kind of Chernobyl times 100? Continue reading

Solar Storm Warning

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare early Tuesday, Aug. 9, the largest in 5 years. The image was was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light.

A solar storm of moderate intensity will affect the earth for the next few days. Some disruption of satellite, GPS, telecommunications and electric equipment should be expected from a series of eruptions in the sun including one yesterday that was the largest seen in five years. None of the eruptions has been on a portion of the sun’s surface facing the earth, so effects should be limited to minor electronic disruptions and spectacular aurora borealis. A direct hit, such as occurred in 1859, would be another matter altogether (see  “A Solar Powered Blackout”). The danger is elevated because the sun is headed toward an 11-year maximum of such storms in 2013.