Scientists: A Solar Storm Could Have the Power of
Scientists say we're entering a new
solar cycle of more intense and frequent
solar storms. Worsening solar storms could shut down
telecommunications, ground airline service and lead to
"I'm not talking about days or weeks, but several months without electric power, blackouts, across large regions of Europe and the U.S.," said Helena Lindberg during the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.
Solar storms happen when the sun releases large bursts
of electrified gasses. These
storms can disrupt satellites, fry electronic devices, and even
disrupt the electricity grid.
"To my mind, there are few emergencies today that require such a close cooperation across the Atlantic as that of the geomagnetic storm," Lindberg said.
Jane Lubchenco heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
She says increasing solar storms are already having an
impact on Earth. Airlines have even been forced to
change their planes' routes because of them.
"The last time we had a maximum in the solar cycle about 10 years ago, the world was a very different place," she said, noting the increase in airline traffic and the reliance on devices such as cell phones.
The effects of space storms are similar to solar storms. Some space storms include explosions that release pulses very similar to a man-made electromagnetic pulse. Space storm pulses may interfere with satellites and electronic devices.
But spaces storms are localized in space. A solar storm will affect the entire planet.
Scientists can't predict the impact of a massive solar storm on Earth's communications and services. But Stephan Lechner (European Commission Joint Research Center) says our goal should be to take measures now. If protective steps aren't taken, the communications and electronic infrastructure could be severely disrupted
John Beddington is the U.K. government's chief scientific
adviser. He says solar
storms are not on his government's national risk
register ... "but it should be."
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