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Space Science Technology

One In Eight Chance of a Financially Catastrophic Solar Storm By 2020 337

An anonymous reader writes "A privately employed solar scientist named Pete Riley estimates there's a 12 percent chance of a massive solar storm comparable to the Carrington Event in 1859 which resulted in breathtaking aurorae across the United States and other temperate regions of the globe. The electromagnetic surge from the 1859 event caused failures of telegraph systems across Europe and North America. A similar storm today could knock out power grids, GPS and communication satellites, data centers, transportation systems, and building and plumbing infrastructures and wreak $1 trillion or more of economic damage in the first year alone, according to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences."
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One In Eight Chance of a Financially Catastrophic Solar Storm By 2020

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  • What are the chances (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eternaldoctorwho ( 2563923 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @11:56AM (#39220649)
    that it will happen in 2012?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @11:56AM (#39220655)

    ... Can it knock out out my PC and if so how can I protect it?

  • BS Flag (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jasnw ( 1913892 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:10PM (#39220839)
    OK, I throw the BS flag all over this one. I've been in this business (space weather) for over 40 years, and one of the biggest problems in the whole field are these "OMG the F-ing SKY is FALLING" pronouncements from self-proclaimed space weather experts (or NASA scientists, which is just sad). What this guy has done is a typical "lies, damn lies, and statistics" analysis of the worst sort, and he even kinda admits this with the caveat at the end of TFA's abstract in Space Weather. This is not to say that a big Carrington-magnitude storm came along it wouldn't cause havoc, it most certainly will, but there's only been one of these in our recorded history. That seems to fall well outside the realm of useable predictability. It's in a class of problems the weather service folks who try to predict 100-year floods know all too well. If you only see one instance of something in your record, at best you can say that you get one of those beasts every record-length/2 years (if that). This guy is just blowing smoke to advertise his business.
  • Re:Plumbing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:12PM (#39220863)

    Has plumbing really become dependent on electronic control systems? Or does this phenomenon somehow affect gravity too?

    Plumbing consists of pipes running for long distances in straight lines (i.e. antennas). Magnetic storms can cause currents to run through these pipes resulting in electrical damage. In addition, for buried pipes, the magnetic storm can cause their relative voltage to shift, resulting in massive corrosion. This is of particular concern with respect to oil and gas pipelines.

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:23PM (#39221015) Homepage

    There's a lot to be said for contact breaker ignition. Of course, diesels are even better. I've driven a diesel car with no functioning electrical system of any kind (although I don't recommend it due to the absence of brake lights).

    The scariest part was getting it started. Yes, sure, it'll push start but until the engine has been running for 15 seconds (big heavy old Citroen CX 25DTR Turbo) there is no hydraulic pressure for the steering or braking system... Better hope the handbrake will stop it before the back wall of the yard does!

  • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:42PM (#39221237)
    That depends on the type of flare. A charged magnetic emission like the one in the article would likely send enough electrons flying that it would in fact be an EMP.
  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:49PM (#39221323) Homepage Journal

    You're going to get some odd waveforms coming in - the UPS will only save you if it isolates the load instead of just switches to a battery. The surge protector isn't going to help much. Those are meant to suppress "lengthy" transients and overvolts, quick spikes can still break shit but not pop the protector.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:39PM (#39221885)
    I watched an interesting PBS special on the Amish a couple nights ago. It gave me good insight into their lifestyle choices.
    During this show I thought about the "2012 problem". If any one would survive a shutdowns of electricity and electronics, these people will However, these people are pacifists an might not do well with armed bands that would arise in the apocalypse.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court