Solar Magnetic Storm

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present a recent episode from the highly acclaimed series “The Universe” that highlights much of what was mentioned in a recent article by my good friend and co-blogger Ralph Buttigieg concerning the need for Planetary Defense.

One threat in particular he mentions warrants our immediate attention – Solar Magnetic Storms. To quote Ralph:

“Our Sun is a seething ball of gas that can send huge eruptions of plasma towards Earth. The resulting solar wind shock wave can completely disturbs Earth’s magnetic field. Such storms effect our communications and electricity generation. In 1989 a solar storm caused black outs throughout Quebec. But that was nothing compared to the solar storm of 1859. That was so severe that telegraph operators received electric shocks and fires were ignited. If the Earth was hit by a similar storm today without warning it could cause a world wide catastrophe. Power station transformers would be destroyed, communications systems would be useless. It would be an major threat to our civilization”.

While humankind and the rest of the biosphere may not suffer any immediate threat as a direct consequence of a solar magnetic storm its effects on our civilisation’s technological infrastructure could be devastating and this may very well result in the death of over one billion people who rely heavily on that technological infrastructure for their everyday existence.

A magnetic storm from the sun could wipe out electrical power, television, radio, military communication, and nearly every piece of electronics in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a “Solar Katrina” – a planet-wide “hurricane” of magnetic forces that scramble all twenty-first century technologies, possibly for good.

With the power of ten thousand nuclear weapons, a magnetic storm could create the largest disaster in recorded history.
What causes this magnetic superstorm? Why is magnetism so powerful – and yet so poorly understood? And, is there anything we can do to prevent and protect our civilization from the devastating effects of a Solar Magnetic Storm?

The Universe Season 5 Episode 3 – Magnetic Storm


1 Response to “Solar Magnetic Storm”

  1. 1 Ralph Buttigieg August 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

    G'day,Good video. What can be done of course is to turn the power off until the solar storm is over. But you need early warning to do that. A high resolution telescope permanently watching the Sun could provide that warning

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