Friday, June 18, 2010

The Sky Could Fall. Seriously.

[Update: Video added. Click "Read more" to view.]

A NASA-funded study found that a solar flare the size of one that occurred in 1921 could leave 130 million people without power, and cause a collapse of the power infrastructure in the Northwest, Midwest and most of the East Coast.

Similar to the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by nuclear weapons, a geomagnetic storm could induce currents that fry anything electrical. In 1989, a storm melted transformers and knocked out power for 6 million people in Quebec. The one in 1921 is estimated to have been 10 times stronger, and it knocked out all communications east of the Mississippi.

The most powerful storm on record is believed to have been at least another 50% stronger than the one in 1921. The "Carrington Event" in 1859 shorted out telegraph systems in the U.S. and Europe, shocking their operators and setting their telegraph paper on fire.

Today, of course, practically everything is electronic and interconnected, not mention interdependent. Said the study:
The loss of electricity would ripple across the social infrastructure with water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, fuel re-supply and so on....

It could affect water, communication, banking and finance, and just about every critical infrastructure including government services. ... Emergency services would be strained, and ... medical care systems would be seriously challenged.
Another reason to prepare for the worse.

(Not "worst," because there's not much we could do about that. For example, a gamma ray burst from a nearby collapsing star could wipe out life on Earth except in the deep sea -- as is believed to have happened 450 million years ago. DisasterMan is building an undersea lair just in case.)

Thanks to the SHTFplan blog, via American Prepper's Network, for the story, NASA for the pictures.

Update: National Geographic has posted a understated and reassuring video, "Electronic Armeggedon: Just as the sun allows our atmosphere to remain stable, so too can it destroy civilization."