“When a CME hits Earth head on,” says Dr. Newmark, “the results could be catastrophic to modern human society.”
CMEs, or Coronal Mass Ejections, are enormous bursts of superheated gas (called plasma) ejecting from the sun. They are powerful eruptions driven by kinks in the solar magnetic field.
The plasma itself is a cloud of protons and electrons carried aloft by the solar wind. Travelling at over a million miles per hour (1.6 million kph), the ejecta can cross the 93-million-mile (150-million-km) distance to Earth in as little as 8 hours. The resulting shocks ripple through the solar system and can interrupt satellites and power grids here on Earth.
“It could essentially shut down the Industrial Revolution,” says ecology.com’s Weather Ecology Specialist, Frank Billingsley. “If so much of our technology and electrical systems along with the plants that supply them are shut down, then we are going to go back to the time of the Industrial Revolution.”
Increased Threat Moving Forward
Because CMEs get blown off the sun in all directions, most don’t come anywhere near Earth. But every so often, an eruption is aimed right at us. When the plasma cloud hits our planet, a geomagnetic storm follows.
As Earth’s magnetosphere continues to wain as the next Grand Solar Minimum (GSM) ensues, CMEs will have an even bigger impact on our modern way of life. Perversely, a reduction in solar activity weakens Earth’s magnetic field but powerful CMEs still occur, meaning we’ll be hit when our shields are down.
The “Carrington Event” of 1859 hit a ‘full-strength’ magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record. People in mountainous regions of North America woke to start their day, believing it was morning, when in fact it was the middle of the night.
In 1989, Quebec was hit by a relatively modest CME which still took out enough of the grid to keep the entire province in the dark for almost twelve hours.
The Hydro-Quebec power grid went down in just over a minute, leaving millions without power in the middle of the winter when the average temperature was below freezing.
It wasn’t only Canada that was effected. The storm had residual effects reaching down into New England and New York City.
It also affected several satellites, including NASA’s TDRS-1, which reported 250 anomalies during the storm.
Along with the GSM there’s another factor contributing to the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field — a Magnetic Excursion, or Pole Shift.
North and South Poles are currently racing towards each other and, according to some sources, are due to meet over Indonesia within the next few years.
A Pole Shift can take Earth’s magnetosphere down to 10-15% effectiveness. Back in 1859, during the Carrington Event, the magnetosphere was at near full strength. A powerful strike today, with our shields down by as much as 90%, will be catastrophic to our modern way of life.
Preparing For The Storm
One option is to get off the grid as much as possible.
Being able to purify water or have a reserve supply of clean water is essential.
Having a generator or alternative energy source, like solar panels can be effective.
For smaller electronic devices like phones and laptops, a Faraday Cage can protect from damaging electromagnetic fields — a microwave oven can act as a good Faraday Cage.
We did just dodge a Carrington-sized CME in 2012, by total luck it flew just past Earth.
And while an event similar to the 1859 solar storm would be devastating, scientists are more concerned with the 500-year or 1000-year solar storm that there is limited recorded history of.
Click below for evidence found of a huge solar outburst occurring around 2,500 years ago:
Our relative comfort of the Modern Grand Solar Maximum is ending.
However those that see the coming changes and adapt accordingly have fewer reasons for concern.
For more on the role Cosmic Rays have on Global Cooling, click the link below:
Grand Solar Minimum + Pole Shift
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