Taking Space Weather Seriously

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , ,

800px-Nasa_EV_Lacertae_250408

Here we are approaching the expected 2013 solar max.

What to do?  Perhaps ponder the cautionary tale of the rumored first draft of George Harrison’s Here comes the Sun:

Solar max, it’s been a dormant 11-year period

Solar max, it has been years since you’ve been here

Here come the sunspots,

Here come the sunspots,

And I say…LOOKOUT!!!!

Alternatively, we could consider The Knack’s early laydown of My Sharona, which may or may not have been proposed as My Corona.

But seriously folks.  From The Guardian:

The threat of solar storms that could wreak havoc on the world’s electronic systems must be taken more seriously, the UK government’s chief scientist has warned. A severe solar storm could damage satellites and power grids around the world, he said, leading to a “global Katrina” costing the world’s economies as much as $2tn (£1.2tn)…

…”GPS is a critical part of almost everything we do,” said Thomas Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Centre in Colorado. “The ubiquitous need for an uninterrupted power supply, satellite-delivered services – every time you go to a gas station and purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that’s a satellite transaction taking place – and, of course, aviation and communications. We have made our lives increasingly dependent on these things, but each of them carries vulnerabilities to space weather with them.”

MSNBC adds:

The Feb. 14 (solar) flare unleashed a wave of charged particles that streamed immediately toward Earth, as well as coronal mass ejections, or blobs of plasma, that took days to arrive here. When they did, they interacted with Earth’s magnetic field to cause geomagnetic storms that wiped out radio communications in the Western Pacific Ocean and parts of Asia, and caused airlines to reroute some polar flights to avoid radio outages.

However, experts say we got off fairly lucky with this recent solar storm, and that future eruptions could cause worse damage, particularly to the sensitive transformers and capacitors in power grids. If some of these were harmed, there could be power outages for days, weeks, months, or even, in the case of severe damage, years, experts warned.

Like Y2K and global warming climate change, at some point, we’re likely to get some useful advice other than to fear the coronal mass ejection.  This might include ineffective programs like (but not limited to) capacitor credits, transformer taxes, or coronal cap and trade.

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