After reading through the articles that Phage was able to provide me, along with further research on the subjects of geomagnetic storms, I find that I
have to agree with him in that from what we know
of magnetic field strengths during these storms, it is of course very possible to still
damage/destroy substation systems, but I'm finding a lack of support for any kind of arcing possibility through the switching system of something like
emergency generating systems (IE the subject of emergency generators being damaged by an arc over from e geomagnetic event).
Here is why I'm having to agree with him for now on it:
First, magnetic field strength is measured in Teslas, normally represented by the capital letter "T"
During the 1859 event the field strength was estimated to be has high as -1750 nT ( nT stands for Nano Teslas) or -0.00000175 Teslas.
The Canadian 1989 event it was measured at -589 nT or -0.000000589 Teslas.
Here is why that's important. The field strength of a generator that runs at 50 Hz, with a 240 VAC output, with 120 cm^2 coils is measured at -3.1 T
or -3.1 Tesla
Magnetic Field Equations
That filed strength on that small generator is 1.77 MILLION times greater than that of the 1859 event, yet 240 VAC is too small to produce an arc.
That said, I still will not say that it can never
happen. There could be all sorts of conditions from something that could induce a high
voltage arc across the switching circuit for emergency back up generators.
However, Phage has convinced me that a geomagnetic storm alone would not be able to do that, as far as we know, because the strongest magnetic field
is just way too small to induce enough voltage to make that jump.
I would say that because we've only been monitoring the sun for such a short time in human history (and the Earth's magnetic field too), that it's
possible for us to have had stronger storms with higher measurements. However, given how strong the 1859 event was (the flare was a X15, norther
lights seen all the way to the equator, and bright enough to read by in England), given the amount of particles it took from the sun, I would shrudder
to think of how much of a flare it would take to make that field strength a million times stronger (I think the Earth's field would actually collapse
before that happened to tell you the truth).
ETA - thanks again for the article Phage. They were a good read.
edit on 23-8-2012 by eriktheawful because: (no reason given)