Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Angry Sun

Although the solar storm we’re experiencing at the moment is only a ‘worst in five years’ event, it’s chilling to consider the implications of something much stronger hitting our planet.

Solar storms come in the wake of violent activity on the Sun, such as a solar flares, causing mind-boggling amounts of gas to be flung out into space, travelling at around 2,000 kilometres per second (which is too fast even for a speed camera to take a photo of).

When this material pounds against Earth’s magnetic field (the magnetosphere), it causes a geomagnetic storm, and this can really create problems with anything electrical.

In 1859, the most powerful solar storm in recorded history knocked out telegraph systems, with poles sparking and operators being shocked at their desks. The telegraph was just about the height of technology at the time.

In 2012, rather than electrical contraptions being few and far between, or just for the wealthy, they’re everywhere. Modern society is totally reliant on hi-tech electrical and electronic equipment; even the Taliban use mobile phones.

But it’s not just smartphones, tablets, laptops, televisions, satellites and so on that we’d lose, should the planet be hit by a significantly more powerful solar blast wave… it’s not that we’d be sitting twiddling our thumbs at home, with nothing to play and nobody to talk to, online, and that would be the full extent of our problems… it’s that all of our systems would collapse at the same time, because they’re run with electronic equipment.

It could silence our communication system, so the only way you could deliver a message to someone would be to hand-write it and take it there yourself. Almost all vehicles have electronic systems and they’d all be redundant. There’d be no fuel… no heating… no water supply… no restocking of supermarket shelves… no banking… no effective police system… no government… no money any more.

Imagine a city the size of London or New York suddenly without water, food and heating, with no way of resupplying when stocks ran out, knowing that even if they tried to make a break for it, wherever they go, people are going to be in the same position – slowly starving to death, drinking from polluted rivers and literally fighting for their lives. Billions could die across the planet as the rest of humanity learnt to adapt, again, to a life without electronics.

It sounds like the scenario of a disaster movie, but this is something that could actually happen within our lifetime… even within the next year. The Sun reaches its Solar Maximum in 2013, and many more large solar flares are anticipated as that occurs.

The Electric Infrastructure Security Council – a massive, international panel of politicians and scientists, brought together to look at ways of preventing or coping with such an event - say, on their website: “… the probability that modern society will face such an event is essentially 100%

Maybe it’s time to stock up on tins of beans and bottled water?


  1. This sounds very bad for us, though it might ultimately be good for the planet, as it'll end manmade global warming at a stroke. Those humans who survive will revert to a preindustrial existence. Sounds quite appealing in some ways.

  2. This topic has always interested me, especially from an esoteric point of view. Recently I discovered an american research facility called the HeartMath Institute, who are scientifically proving the affects our human hearts can have on the magnetosphere and how we can use this to help the planet... truly fascinating stuff and well worth looking into... we can all be doing our bit to literally save the world lol :)

  3. This is a great blog post! On FOX today, they were making fun of the Solar Storm warnings, while at the same time spending their talking time jabbering about shopping on their iPads, and how silly GPS warnings on their iPhones are for toll booths.

    I couldn't imagine what New York City would be like without power!

    Actually, it is imagined well in "One Second After", a book about what happens when all the power int he USA goes out.

    Frightening, and NOT GOOD FOR THE PLANET.

  4. I enjoyed this article Les. It's an amazing time to be human, that's for sure. I choose to embrace it all and stock up on bottled water, but with a sense of adventure, not with fear. I believe returning to the basics is not only important right now but also deeply fulfilling. We can allow allow technology to enhance and complement but not dominate. Creating with our hands, gardening, food preparation, art, etc can be very grounding through these changing times. At the same time, technologies like the internet are powerfully connecting the masses like never before, we are waking, connecting and remembering our true nature. Every moment is an unfolding. Namaste all :D

  5. The Zeitgeist Movement has some answers as to how a money less sustainable system could be implemented a Resource Based Economy,

    I reckon it's the next best step in our Human Development

  6. Many in the NE experienced a blackout in 2003. This was just from a simple downed line in Ohio. Our electrical grid received a "D" rating just a few years ago and was part of the documentary, "The Crumbling of America." Even without the effects of the Sun's ejections we could face a life changing event.

    Unlike America in the 1930's, where 80% lived in rural communities, 80% now live in major urban areas. I hate to think of the social chaos over a prolonged outage of power.

  7. Certainly power could go out - until it was repaired. Certainly vehicles in use could be damaged - but the effects are doubtful on those not in use. Computers could well be hit - if they and their internet connections do not pass through a surge protector.

    It would cause a great deal of inconvenience and some deaths but long term? Not likely.

  8. Very interesting. The consequences of our actions come back to haunt us.

  9. Is it just me or is part of this story missing? In 1859 the telegraph system wasn't destroyed... just knocked out as the waves swept through. It's disruptive, yes, but not permanent (circuit breakers, anyone?)

  10. Its interesting that a scientist from the West of England was challenging the Met Office in April that their predictions for May were wrong on the basis they are simply computer projections from now. He predicted the coldest May in Britain since records began while they predicted average. He was proved right. The basis of his predictions were solar activity as described in this article - though relating to weather. On a more sombre note, ancient Mayan science predicted on the basis of such solar activity that there would be some devastating stuff going on on 23 December 2012. There are some who say that the magnetic poles may reverse. They also predicted rise and fall of various empires on the same basis, apparantly sucessfully. The interesting thing is that this is not 'prophecy' but was based on their understanding of how the physical sun worked. I have no expertise in such matters. However the bottled water, baked beens and carrot seeds may be a good idea - though for how long?! It is also necessary seriously to analyse and seek to understand realistically the probable effects on global infrastructure and work out solutions for survival and development as societies.

  11. This shows how small and insignificant we really are. One stroke from the sun and we are all gone!!