Imagine that none of your electrical appliances work because you have no power. Or, you aren’t able to flush your toilet.
These are some of the potential consequences of a solar storm that occurred on July 23, 2012. The sun unleashed two clouds of plasma, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that made up a solar storm that barely missed an encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.
If the storm had occurred a week earlier, it would have come directly into contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Fortunately, the blast wasn’t directly at Earth.
It is believed that this storm was just as powerful as the Carrington Solar Storm that occurred in September of 1859. It was named after Richard Carrington, an English astronomer who had documented the event. Some of the consequences included sparks on telegraph wires which set some telegraph offices ablaze.
It is believed that the July 23 storm would have been devastating. Some of the consequences included: crippling satellite communications and potential damage to the power grid. Most people wouldn’t be able to flush their toilet since most urban water systems rely on electric pumps.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences has concluded the cost of such a storm if it had impacted Earth would be around $2 trillion, or 20 times the cost in damages from Hurricane Katrina. Not only would the power grid have been impacted, but commerce, transportation, agricultural and food stocks, human health, and medical facilities.
Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. believes there’s a 12% chance of a Carrington type event occurring in the next 10 years. If we’re not prepared for such an event of this magnitude, we will suffer catastrophic consequences.
The first world countries without power would cripple much of the modern day infrastructure — what a scary prospect.
Photo via: NASA