From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published August 27, 2010 11:36 AM

Solar Storm

A geomagnetic storm (or solar storm) is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a massive solar flares or related sun output. A geomagnetic storm is caused by a solar wind shock wave which typically strikes the Earth's magnetic field 3 days after the event on the sun. The effect on the earth can be small or it can be large. Astronomers are predicting that a massive solar storm, much bigger in potential than the one that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month, will strike our planet in 2012 with a force of 100 million hydrogen bombs. This is far larger than average.


What does a solar storm do? The easily observable effects will be the northern lights (which will be far more south than they should be) and electromagnetic interference (cell phones and GPS may not work, radio and TV signals may be disrupted.).

On March 13, 1989 a severe geomagnetic storm caused the collapse of the Hydro-Québec power grid in a matter of seconds as equipment protection relays tripped in a cascading sequence of events. The same storm even caused auroras as far south as Texas. The geomagnetic storm causing this event was itself the result of a coronal mass ejection, ejected from the Sun on March 9, 1989.

Ice cores show evidence that events of similar intensity recur at an average rate of approximately once per 500 years. Since 1859, less severe storms have occurred in 1921 and 1960, when widespread radio disruption was reported.

On September 1-2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed. Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire. Some telegraph systems were reported to continue to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies.

Many astronomers report that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years.

Compared to earlier major solar storms there is more electromagnetic equipment and systems than ever before. As a result, the effect of this new solar storm casnnot be easily predicted. Satellites, circuit breakers, air flights, cell phones, and wireless systems will be affected.

Dr Richard Fisher, director of NASA's Heliophysics division, stated that the super storm would hit like "a bolt of lightning", causing catastrophic consequences for the world's health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

NASA said that a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause 1 to 2 trillion dollars in damages to society's high-tech infrastructure and require four to 10 years for complete recovery.

The findings are published in the most recent issue of Australasian Science.

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