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Earth Space Science

Can Solar Storms Cause Wildfires? 87

astroengine writes "In the wake of recent solar activity, some space cadets were very quick to point out a causal link between geomagnetic storms and the wildfires currently ravaging the landscape surrounding Moscow. Of course, this is patently false. But is there a scenario when the onset of a solar storm could have secondary effects, sparking fires in already arid regions? Possibly. What's more, it already happened, 150 years ago."
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Can Solar Storms Cause Wildfires?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:00PM (#33234044)

    this is patently false ... Possibly ... it already happened

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Farmer Tim ( 530755 )

      Explanation for the hard of comprehending:

      this is patently false

      The current wildfires in Russia were not caused by solar storms.


      There is a scenario where solar storms could potentially start fires.

      it already happened

      The scenario has occurred, but didn't result in fires that time.

      • Re:Does not compute (Score:4, Informative)

        by Iron Condor ( 964856 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:56PM (#33234476)

        The scenario has occurred, but didn't result in fires that time.

        Except that this statement is false. There's newspaper reports from all over he US from the latter parts of 1859 of wildfires happening all over the place. Because the US had just covered itself in this really neat continent-sized antenna (the telegraph network) which was throwing sparks all over the place (feel free to peruse the references in this paper [leif.org]).

    • See, astroengine knows that it's "patently false". Know why? Cuz he set the fricking fire.

      Course, the dolt doesn't realize that it's the solar flare that triggered the sequence of signals in his brain leading him to commit the act.

      Oh the convoluted chain of life.

      • Course, the dolt doesn't realize that it's the solar flare that triggered the sequence of signals in his brain leading him to commit the act.

        I was thinking along similar lines - I'm sure Russia has its fair share of crackpots and plenty of vodka as a bonus.

        Nutters are the duct tape of causality.

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:02PM (#33234066)

    lightning, arson and others are more likely

    • Yeah. In this corner, weighing in at "I guess it *might* not be impossible", is the Solar Storm theory.

      And in this corner, weighing in at 100% certainty are the tag-team of cigarette-smoking russians, lightning, campfires, accidents, and deliberate arson.

    • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:13PM (#33234944)
      Sir, your sun has been arrested for arson.

      The worst part was that he did it during a coronal mass ejection. That makes it a sex crime.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcvos ( 645701 )

      An even more likely explanation for the fires to get this big, is the fact that Putin fired a lot of firefighters and forest guards a few years ago. All the fire lanes that kept the forests compartmentalized are now gone, and that allows forest fires to get this far out of control.

      • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @06:09AM (#33236970)

        That and apparently during those early lusty Soviet times, there was a grand vision to power the USSR and Moscow in particular with peat. Peat is in bogs. To burn it you have to get the water out. So they drained the bogs. Fast forward to the latter Soviet times when natural gas was discovered (no, I'm not talking about Politburo speeches) and a half century of Communist WTF 5 year projects caught up with them. So they dropped the peat idea and started cooking with gas. That was all nice and tidy but no one wanted to go back and rewater the bogs. Now, a bit of global warming, a bit of La Nina, a bit of nasty drought...add some lightning, dumb Russians tossing their cigarette butts in the bogs, etc. and we have the spectacle of Putin pushing a button on a fire plane to drop a giant raindrop of water to show his solidarity with the proles.

        The only reason the bogs didn't attempt to kill the Russians before was the amount of rainfall they normally receive which put out the bog fires they normally have. That works fine until you have a drought, and even more Russian screwups like you mentioned.

  • Power lines. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:04PM (#33234078) Journal
    Here in Oz power lines are a major cause of bushfires without any help from solar flares.
    • I'm sorry, but I think Oz itself is a major cause of bushfires. When a bucket of water left out in the sun causes your back-yard to catch fire, you might want to consider blaming the locale.

  • by vmxeo ( 173325 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:17PM (#33234190) Homepage Journal

    I've had just about enough of this "Sun". First, we've learned it's to blame for global warming, now it's setting fires throughout the world. Why, why does it hate our liberties? How many innocents must die of skin cancer before someone acts? How many children must we let it burn on metal playground equipment? When will it strike you with sunburn in your very own backyard?? The world must stand up to this terrorism! We must strike fast and we must strike hard! All good men must stand up and demand the world governments strike with the biggest atomic - no, hydrogen bomb and wipe this great evil from the sky above!!!

    Urge your leaders to act now before it is to late! Think of the children!

  • Or maybe Nancy Pelosi caused it...

    It all depends on which wing of the bird you sit on.

  • So their logic is that the telegraph (so phone, now?) lines can get overwhelmed and break, sparking fires?

    Wow, that seems like a long way to go. (For one thing, I think that phone and power lines have more protection on them now. You might overload a transformer or even take down an entire grid, but I should think widespread sparking would be uncommon. They'd have had problems all over in Canada already, if not.)

    • It can be an issue on very large transmission lines...however telecom lines all have protection against this sort of thing.
  • But (Score:3, Funny)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:04PM (#33234530) Journal

    If it causes fires on earth, it might singe Uranus too.

  • NASA SP-426, "Sun, Weather, and Climate, 1978m John R. Herman and Richard A. Goldberg, republished 1985 by Dover Publications, Inc. Section 3.2 talks about correlations with the 22 year Hale Solar Cycle (the 11 year cycles have alternate polarity). Rainfall and drought are the first two mentioned..... not exactly the solar storm, but still the sun
    • Correlation does not imply causation. There are a boatload of other factors that take place. This planet used to be very lush with rain forests. And with the ever increasing population of man on this planet, and our need to destroy without care, lower rainfall amounts and drought are more likely to occur. So as we lose more and more forest / rain forests the correlations will appear to be more and will be naturally lead people to believe that it is causeation.

  • It's happened many times before. Of particularly interesting note are the legends of "the gods" from various societies which have arisen shortly after periods of relatively poor advancement.

    The solar storms output huge amounts of radiation - electromagnetic as well as other frequencies. Being as the earth is, essentially, a large (but significantly smaller than the sun) magnet, the interference with the Earth's magnetic/electrical field will quite certainly have observable effects: increased/more intense st

  • Wait a second before we destroy the Sun! What if these CMEs and radiation caused the mutations which differentiated our species? We could be risking future evolutionary improvements by removing this source for modifying DNA. Of course, we could start a government sponsored project to randomly administer bursts of mutating radiation in the hopes of creating a better species.... Oh wait, never mind, we already have cellphones.
  • Actually, there is some evidence that the recent Russian wildfires, while not caused by solar storms, were in fact fostered by jet stream blocking events that seem to occur more often during lulls in solar activity [newscientist.com].

  • Let's say there is another massive CME, or one even more massive than the one in 1859. How would you protect your electronics? Would you shove them into anti-static bags? Would they need to be (nearly) air tight, or would it be sufficient to just drape the bags over things? Would that would work for hard drives, cell phones, and if you had some large enough, PCs as well? What about data centers? Obviously, unplugging them would be a requirement, too.
  • You can have "Possibly."

    OR "What's more, it already happened, 150 years ago."

    Either it may have happened 150 years ago, which would be "Possibly" or did which would be "Yes."

  • Ummmm... In Soviet Russia the wildfires start solar flares?

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter