Just as there is a hurricane season in the Caribbean and the United States, there is a season of solar storms, associated with the active cycle
of our sun, which rises to a maximum every eleven years. The cycle "number 24", in which we are, is expected to join its smaller activity in 2013
according to astronomers forecasts. However, after three transition years (2006-2008) of very quiet solar activity, it rises slowly but surely in
power, as shown by the violent signals (CME) recorded in recent months, that still occurs, independently of the general cycle.
Illustrated by the first photo above, the last event occurred in April 16th. This was an average eruption associated with a large protuberance which
eventually burst like a soap bubble and sent part of its contents into space. A video (in time-lapse because this took in real a few hours) is shown
However, this bubble, bigger than the giant planet Jupiter, was not very wicked. In any case less than the coronal mass ejection (CME)
recorded in March, which shipped its content of electrically charged particles right on the
Frequently, the Sun eject, during a CME, over one billion tons of particles, at speeds of hundreds or even thousands of kilometers per second.
Fortunately, Earth's magnetic field protects us by deflecting much of this plasma. But not completely. The magnetosphere is not impervious to the
particles that can penetrate the atmosphere and cause the northern and southern auroras.
During the March event, the upper atmosphere received about 26 billion kilowatt hours of energy, equivalent to 5% of the electricity consumed in
France in a whole year! Much of this energy was reflected back to space and no damage was reported.
This is not the case for all CME. In March 1989, three days after leaving the Sun, a huge cloud of particles came to, as a puncher, hit Earth's
magnetosphere. Northern lights were seen as far as in Texas. And, above all,
electric currents induced by geomagnetic storm blew up one after the
other safety power grid systems in Quebec, leaving 6 million people without power for nine hours at the end of a Canadian winter.
Long bill..... between repairs of the electrical network, the additional protections that are made on it and the lost profits of the local economy,
the bill was $ 2 billion. Corollary of the incident, space agencies have temporarily lost contact with hundreds of satellites....
According to astronomers, this 1989 event was a tiny one compared to another solar storm that occurred one hundred and thirty years earlier.
At the beginning of September 1859, aurora (that we
can't definitely call anymore 'Northern Lights') were seen as south down as in the Caribbean and Venezuela. At the time, the electric networks does
not exist and there was therefore no risk that could came from that side. However, induced currents happily roam the lines of ... telegraph, sending
up sparks poles and electric shocks to employees.
The consequences of this CME, in the middle of the nineteenth century, have been limited after all. If it happened today, the same phenomenon,
exceptional, would affect far more dramatic. In one hundred and fifty years, networks of all kinds have been built....
The main body of plasma takes hours or days to reach Earth, But an advance blast of energetic particles hits almost immediately. CME arrives at
Earth with a glancing blow because of the solar longitude of its source; its magnetic orientation is northward
....Not only such an event would cause many low-power systems for several weeks or months, but it also attack the oil and gas pipelines by
accelerating their oxidation, it would probably destroy the satellites as well as many various electronic components of devices and temporarily cut
off all radio communications and Geo-location. This last point is significant because, as noted by my colleague, Yves Eudes, in a recent
"Le Monde" article (in French),
"GPS systems now play a vital role in many sectors: land, air and see transport, container management, guiding agricultural machinery, electronic
communications and even banks, which use satellite signals as a world clock for dating of financial transactions to the nearest hundredth of a second.
" A recent US report estimated that for the United
States alone, such a solar tsunami could cost a whopping 2,000 billion, equivalent to twenty hurricane Katrina. It should further take four to ten
years to restore all things back.
Why? Because we are not ready, says in substance, in a commentary published this Wednesday, April 18th in
"Nature", Mike Hapgood, who heads the research unit on the space
environment at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, a major British research laboratory.
For this researcher, our dependence on the electric network makes us more vulnerable than ever, because it is not configured to withstand a major CME:
"Many threatened electrical systems are designed to withstand events such as those that we have seen over the last 40 years: for example it is now
required that new transformers are able to withstand events such as the ones that occurred in 1989. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year
show what dangers we could have to face at if we are only prepared to deal only with events similar to those of recent decades. Instead, we should
prepare for a space storm unlike anything seen only once every thousand years."
...to be continued...
edit on 23-4-2012 by elevenaugust because: (no reason given)
edit on 23-4-2012 by elevenaugust because:
(no reason given)
In the same way that, through the development of meteorology, we organize alerts with thunderstorms, storms, hurricanes, floods or avalanches,
we must invest in space weather.
It starts, says Mike Hapgood, by learning about the risks and phenomena. However, if the satellite data dedicated to the study of the Sun are
increasingly provided, they only cover the recent period. Data exist on the ionosphere over 80 years and those on the magnetic field has more than 170
years. The problem is that they exist only on paper ... Therefore the need to scan them; that's why Mike Hapgood guess that anyone could, via the
Net, distribute this immense task among many volunteers, like the Solar Stormwatch
that asks users to dissect the CME events recorded by satellites by following simple instructions.
Another task, which falls this time to 100% for scientists: to create better CME patterns to understand how they travel in the interplanetary medium
and how they inject their energy in the Earth's atmosphere. According to Mike Hapgood, existing patterns are comparable to those of climatology that
prevailed half a century ago. Finally, and this is both the simplest and most complicated (because the more expensive), we must strengthen the
protection of networks and their hardware. Just because our society has become more vulnerable, dependent on the way these systems works. Their
weaknesses are our weaknesses.
i totally agree!
good thing i can make fire and have a wood stove!
i also have a cool b.b.q. to cook on and a couple full tanks of propane
when that runs out i can use hard wood to make coals to cook on the b.b.q.!!!
Looks like currently they are calling for Feb/March 2013. The maximum's year/month is chosen by a panel of NASA scientists.
The solar cycle takes an average of about 11 years to go from one maximum to the next, with an observed variation in duration of 9 to 14 years for any
given solar cycle. Last one was in 2000. en.wikipedia.org... en.wikipedia.org...
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