Homeland Security takes on The Carrington Event

While we worry about future threats like global warming, and present threats like Iran’s escalating nuclear program, the sun’s propensity for belching out monstrous solar flares (like the Carrington event of 1859) could almost instantly create a world without modern conveniences, or even electricity.  The sun could literally “bomb us back to the stone age”.

Imagine a world without iPhones, and you’d understand why Homeland security rates New York and Seattle the highest for likelihood of major social unrest. Humans don’t do well in the dark. DHS has taken notice.

Above: A modern solar flare recorded Dec. 5, 2006, by the X-ray Imager onboard NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite. The flare was so intense, it actually damaged the instrument that took the picture. Researchers believe Carrington’s flare was much more energetic than this one.

First some history, from NASA:

At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England’s foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw.

On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and “being somewhat flurried by the surprise,” Carrington later wrote, “I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled.” He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.

It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.

Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.

Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.

“What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun,” explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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We’ve discussed before at WUWT what might happen if a Carrington Class solar flare induced Geomagnetic storm happened today. From my view, it is not a matter of if, but when.

The likely outcome is a broad scale collapse of power grids, frying of satellites, and collapse of our delicate silicon based microelectronics networks. Fortunately, we may have enough warning to shutdown everything ahead of time to minimize damage, but will we do anything about it?

The Department of Homeland Security has created this report on the issue, I’ve posted excerpts below.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Over the last six years, natural hazards have caused catastrophic consequences across the globe. Tsunamis, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions have led to hundreds of thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in economic costs. Geomagnetic storms—a type of space weather—are much less frequent, but have the potential to cause damage across the globe with a single event. In the past, geomagnetic storms have disrupted space-based assets as well as terrestrial assets such as electric power transmission networks.

Extra-high-voltage (EHV) transformers and transmission lines—built to increase the reliability of electric power systems in cases of terrestrial hazards—are particularly vulnerable to geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) caused by the disturbance of Earth‘s geomagnetic field. The simultaneous loss of these assets could cause a voltage collapse and lead to cascading power outages. As a natural event whose effects are exacerbated by economic and technological developments, geomagnetic storms pose a systemic risk that requires both domestic and international policy-driven actions.

As part of the OECD Future Global Shocks project, this case study on geomagnetic storms was undertaken to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in current international risk management practices. The literature on geomagnetic storm risk assessments indicates that the state of the art for assessing the security risk from this type of event is still inchoate. There are examples of analyses that describe threat, vulnerability, and consequence, but they are not integrated, primarily because of the weakness in the threat analysis. The lack of valid risk assessments has limited risk mitigation efforts in many critical infrastructure sectors, as it is difficult to demonstrate the utility of investing in either hardening or operational mitigation efforts, especially if these investments reduce time and money spent in preparing for more common risks.

To explore the risk to the international community, this report presents a platform to discuss the risk of geomagnetic storms by describing a worst reasonable scenario and its risk factors. Our analysis identifies areas with EHV assets that are in vulnerable locations due to latitude and ground conductivity, and examines the first- and second-order consequences of an extreme storm, highlighting those consequences with an international impact such as scarcity of surplus EHV transformers and satellite communication signal degradation. In addition to exploring the expected economic consequences of a geomagnetic storm event, the report also assessed psychological consequence in the form of social unrest, behavioral changes and social vulnerability.

The potential for international consequences if an extreme event occurs are high, although the severity of those consequences can be mitigated if the international community takes certain actions in advance, such as investing in additional geomagnetic storm warning systems.

Geomagnetic storms can be categorized as a global shock for several reasons: the effects of an extreme storm will be felt on multiple continents; the resulting damage to electric power transmission will require international cooperation to address; and the economic costs of a lengthy power outage will affect economies around the world. As a global shock event, a severe geomagnetic storm, although unlikely, could lead to major consequences for OECD governments.

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I found this graphic in the report interesting, it suggests that New York, New England, and Seattle are the worst places to be in a Carrington type event. “Get outta Dodge” takes on a  whole new meaning due to the social unrest that is likely:

image

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RECOMMENDATIONS

The consequences of an extreme geomagnetic storm certainly would be severe at the local and national levels. The failure of transnational electric power systems would set off a series of cascading effects, including the disruption of government operations. The potential for international consequences if an extreme event occurs are high, although the severity of those consequences can be mitigated if the international community takes certain actions in advance. In particular, recommendations 1 through 3 provide low-cost mitigation mechanisms the international community can pursue to manage the international risks posed by an extreme geomagnetic storm.

1. The international community should mitigate against the risk of a single point of failure in the current space weather warning and alert system.

The investments that some nations have made in warning systems provide a valuable tool in helping all nations lower the risk of such catastrophic consequences. Today, the ACE satellite represents a critical possible point of failure in the global geomagnetic storm alert and monitoring network. The international community is relying on the United States of America to replace ACE. Although funds have been proposed in the FY11 U.S. Department of Commerce budget to fund an ACE replacement, DISCVR, the international community should carefully consider investing in additional satellite resources to complement the ACE replacement‘s planned CME directional detection capabilities.

2. The international community should improve the current geomagnetic storm warning and alert system.

The efforts to date fostered under ISES, and those of the SWPC in particular, are laudable. But, significant room for improvement remains in the international geomagnetic storm warning and alert infrastructure. First, understanding the consequences of geomagnetic storms requires a greater understanding of the ground induced currents resulting from those storms. Greater investment in magnetometers worldwide and integration of the resulting data would improve the SWPCs ability to assess storm severity.

The international geomagnetic storm alerting and warning community currently uses a 5- level scale to communicate the severity of an impending geomagnetic storm. This scale lacks sufficient granularity at the high end to provide useful tactical guidance to geomagnetic storm alerting and warning information customers. As consumers of space weather forecasting services, the electric power industry would benefit from greater granularity differentiating between severe and extreme geomagnetic storms for tailored operational mitigation measures.

3. Electricity-generating companies should be encouraged to harden high-voltage transformers connecting major power generating assets to electric grids.

Even with warning and alert procedures in place, operational mitigations may be overwhelmed by a sufficiently large storm. Hardening all critical infrastructures against geomagnetic storms is neither economically cost-effective nor technically possible. Hardening high-voltage transmission lines with transmission line series capacitors and the transformers connected to these lines through the installation of neutral-blocking capacitors is possible. But, doing so for all utilities supporting 345 MV and above would prove economically prohibitive (Molinski, 2000). For instance, since the 1989 Quebec electricity outage, Hydro-Quebec has spent more than $1.2 billion on transmission line series capacitors (Government of Canada, 2002). Although hardening all high-voltage transmission lines and transformers is not likely an economically viable strategy, OECD member governments should consider encouraging electricity generation companies and publicly owned utilities to harden transformers connecting critical electricity generation facilities to their respective electrical grids. Ensuring the survival of these high-voltage transformers in the event of an extreme geomagnetic storm will facilitate faster restoration of national electrical grids and remove part of the likely demand for replacement high-voltage transformers in an extreme geomagnetic storm scenario.

4. OECD members should define an allocation process for replacement high-voltage transformers in the event of increased international demand following an extreme geomagnetic storm.

As discussed above, the major international aspects from such an event are likely to be competition for limited resources necessary for recovery of electric power transmission capabilities. Joint planning, therefore, is a clear necessity. The international community would be wise to establish a framework or at least a forum for discussing various mechanisms for prioritization of needs in a competitive environment. Willingness to cooperate post-crisis, however, will depend in many ways on the individual nations‘ policies and planning prior to the crisis, and likely anticipated demands from consumers, both individual and corporate. If one nation invests nothing in warning, emergency procedures, and exercises, for example, it will have difficulty arguing that it should be first in line to receive replacement transformers after a disaster strikes.

Similarly, the international community should have a common understanding of how and when to communicate the possibility of catastrophic effects from an extreme geomagnetic storm prior as an immediate alert. Public panic and unrest can be caused or exacerbated by conflicting or inaccurate information. Clear communications are facilitated by plans and international understanding of roles and responsibilities that have been established prior to an emergency.

To ensure that each participating nation participates to a degree to support such an international partnership, it may be helpful to conduct a more thorough risk assessment. The assessment included in this report is based largely on existing data that have severe limitations and assumptions where there are no data. There are many aspects of the scenario presented here that could be improved through simulation, exercises, and additional analysis of operational procedures. The physical aspects of geomagnetic storms are relatively well known. The reaction of infrastructure operators, the public, and government leaders are more uncertain. These require more thorough understanding so that appropriate incentives can be developed for optimum policy development and implementation.

5. National governments should conduct mission disruption assessments.

The critical infrastructure interdependence analysis included in this report indicates a wide range of critical infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors would suffer second-order consequences stemming from the first-order consequences of an extreme geomagnetic storm. This analysis identifies eight critical infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors likely to experience first-order disruptions as a result of an extreme geomagnetic storm:

1. Communications (Satellite)
2. Communications (Wireline)
3. Energy (Electric Power)
4. Information Technology
5. Transportation (Aviation)
6. Transportation (Mass Transit)
7. Transportation (Pipeline)
8. Transportation (Rail)

As described starting on page 27, disruptions to three of these critical infrastructures would drive second-order disruptions to other critical infrastructures. For example, an extreme geomagnetic storm would result in widespread outages in the electric grids of the U.S.A. and Canada, in turn driving second-order disruptions to 20 other critical infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors (using U.S. DHS definitions for critical infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors). The extreme geomagnetic storm described in the scenario also would drive similar widespread electricity outages in Western Europe and Scandinavia, with second-order consequences similar to those suffered in the U.S. and Canada likely. The scale of these second-order consequences will vary from country to country, depending on a range of factors such as domestic legislation dictating back-up power requirements for hospitals.

The potential for cascading effects on critical infrastructure stemming from an extreme geomagnetic storm means OECD member governments should carefully consider conducting formal risk assessments in at least two areas. First, at a minimum, OECD members should conduct critical infrastructure dependence exercises determining the cascading effects of the loss of electric power. In addition to providing insight into the consequences stemming from an extreme geomagnetic storm, this form of risk analysis will also be applicable to other hazards that could interrupt electricity supplies. Second, OECD member governments should conduct assessments evaluating their dependence on space-based assets for continuity of government. An extreme geomagnetic storm could result in both short- and longer-term disruptions to space-based assets leveraged by OECD member governments for communications, navigation, and information technology.

6. The international community needs a commonly applied methodology to evaluate social vulnerability.

The international community lacks a commonly accepted methodology to assess social vulnerability across national lines. With increasing interest in the implications of social unrest as a global shock, the OECD should take a leading role in facilitating the development of methodology that could be applied internationally. The analysis in this report uses the University of South Carolina Social Vulnerability Index, which is designed for analysis within the United States. This has provided useful insight into the contributors to social vulnerability and comparative analysis for prioritization efforts. To compare similar phenomena across national boundaries, the international community would need to overcome challenges of inconsistent population area definitions, internationally comparable socio-economic factors, and political considerations that allow for application to a variety of types of government, emergency management, and hazard mitigation. The benefits would be a more robust approach to comparing a wide variety of hazard risks to nations and populations across the globe.

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Read the full report here

h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard

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135 thoughts on “Homeland Security takes on The Carrington Event

  1. And if the Anti Western bloc does lob an EMP attack, any preps for a Carrington event would also help in that instance as well.

  2. Curiously according to the press of the time the bright crimson and purple aurorae began on August 28th of that year.
    Was there more than one CME?

  3. “Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight.”

    Are there historic reports of any other events like this one? Do we have any idea how frequently they might repeat?

  4. call me mister cynical, but doesn’t this sound a bit like: “we the empaneled scientists who stand to gain a great deal of power and funding if we can get people scared about this are heree to tell you it’s time to be really, really scared!”

    maybe it’s too much watching the IPCC etc, but i am pretty dubious about these groups that discuss the need to give them money to fund projects to avert possible/hypothetical disasters.

    seems like any time you get a panel of experts together, the answer is always “yes, it’s a HUGE deal. fund us!”

  5. Keep paper records of all financial accounts, Keep some cash around, keep some barter goods in supply. Store some wood, wood burner, gasoline, generator, guns, ammo, food, water, medical supplies. Get ready for living like 150 years ago. If you are in the city and can get out and have a place to get out to, do it, otherwise good luck. Buy a horse if you don’t have one, computer chips in modern vehicles will fry. Depending upon the severity of the occurance, so will some components of older vehicles.

    Government dependent types will be “thinned out” if we have a big one, man made or solar.

  6. I have no idea why Seattle would be worse off than, say, San Francisco. Nonetheless, I do hope all concerned entities will pay attention. Unlike global warming, this is something we can and should do all we can about.

  7. What will upset most people is that the electronics that controls their cars will be fried. Automobiles that are on the road when that thing hits will likely stop, and stay stopped.

    Your computer may be fine, but it will likely have no internet access for a while. Your VOIP phone will likely be dead. If you have a hard wired “POTS” (plain old telephone service) line, your service might be ok if you have a plain old telephone (Model 500 set). If it plugs into the power line it will probably be toast.

  8. Most electric utility control buildings are metal and grounded, so they’re a very good protection for the relays. The cables going to these relays are also shielded and grounded.

    Breakers and switches are generally rated to tolerate tens of thousands of amps, so they’ll be fine.

    Transformers have multiple levels of relaying to protect them against high currents and passive surge arrestors to protect against overvoltage events, so they’ll be fine.

    I’m having a hard time imagining exactly how a flare could damage the electric transmission grid.

  9. morganovich says:
    February 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

    call me mister cynical, but doesn’t this sound a bit like: “we the empaneled scientists who stand to gain a great deal of power and funding if we can get people scared about this are heree to tell you it’s time to be really, really scared!”

    Maybe it’s better to heed all the cries of “WOLF!!”, just to be on the safe side. (/sarc)

  10. Why did it take a whole day before the effect was noticed? Doesn’t it only take a few minutes for the radiation to reach earth?

    The only solution is a massive retaliatory strike. We must declare a War on the Sun. No need to get congress involved though.

  11. Geomagnetic storm last night around midnight GMT

    http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/plotgeodata.cgi?Last24&site=tro2a&amp

    followed by two 6+ magnitude earthquakes

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/quakes_all.php

    within 1.5 hours of each other in different parts of the Pacific, a very rare event in itself (2 x M6+) and the first M6 eqs in last 7 days. Most worrying is the Honshu one, since it is nearly a year since the big one and it was assumed that the area may have settled for a while.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/gms.htm

    ??

  12. No response from BC Hydro when I inquired last year if the $billion “Smart Meter” installations would survive a Carrington event.
    In a wonderfully ironic twist, the Greens, whose blocking of hydro generating expansion and promotion of “sustainable” energy sources made Smart Meter load management necessary, now oppose the meters on the grounds they generate “dangerous EMF pollution” from the occasional
    milli-watt bleeps of data.
    Fortunately Green scientists like Trent University Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies, Dr. Magda Havas http://www.magdahavas.com/biography/ have discovered that pendants like the Q-Link http://store.emfsolutions.ca/q-link-pendant/ can shield us from Dirty Electricity http://www.blockemf.com/

  13. Here is the question that I never see asked or answered…. What should we do as individuals to prevent as much damage as possible to our electronic household goods and cars and everything else???? I feel very “in the dark” on this issue! :-)

  14. Normal emergency prep applies to this a well. Backup generator, some food and water, medications. See the Chiefio link for excellent advice. Living in NY, I believe we are much more civilized than we are given credit for. During the big blackout of 2003 New Yorkers were calm and friendly. Food is less likely to be a problem now as the city finally allowed big warehouse stores like Costco in recent years.

  15. I spent my early years as a test engineer doing level S qualification of devices for NASA and the military. We tested for survivability of conditions quite in excess of the Carrington event. But that was before “Faster, better, cheaper” fiasco, and before NASA decided its mission was to assist in spreading propaganda.

  16. One thing that may not have been thought of is stray voltage in various munitions – missiles, bombs, targeting electronics, etc. When I was loading ordnance on airplanes 40 years ago, stray voltage was always something to check before loading. Similar concerns apply to aircraft generally. Would a Carrington Event ignite or otherwise damage ordnance, either the explosive or other parts such as a missile engine/fuel? Any thoughts?

  17. There is a difference between a perceived and a real threat. And the remedy for this real threat is relatively modest and invokes some serious regional and local response. Much of the response comes in planning for disaster and modest preparation. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events (human induced) or Solar magnetic natural events are real and hopefully a rare possibility. Preparation is essentially the same for both of these events. As in any insurance expenditure, we should temper our preparation (and expenditure) with the level of expected disruption. It seems clear that the magnitude of the disruption here is huge while the insurance premium is relatively small. Of course we should be skeptical. Don’t tack on another homeland security task with this one. In New Mexico some search and rescue operations are done with highly trained volunteers with coordination by the State Police at no cost to the victim. The Feds have been recently maneuvering to require that this be done by them when they generally have very little knowledge of local networks or local conditions. In major disasters the Feds working with regional systems should be encouraged. However, there are now ongoing discussions about the Feds running the whole show. Not a good idea IMO.

    To expect or even encourage the Federal government to solve our problems concerning this issue is probably folly. At least we should hope that the Feds might be the bully pulpit for getting us to work together and plan for the worst (and to continue to fund an ongoing space weather program).

    Bernie

  18. Bill says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
    “Why did it take a whole day before the effect was noticed? Doesn’t it only take a few minutes for the radiation to reach earth?

    The only solution is a massive retaliatory strike. We must declare a War on the Sun. No need to get congress involved though”

    Electromagnetic Radiation takes about 8 minutes. Particulate matter takes hours depending upon its launch velocity and trajectory.

  19. DesertYote: I spent years soldering all the shielded leads on the canon plugs for that specification for the Air Force when they broke. Then they stopped requiring them, it made my job easier, but I always wondered what would happen to the planes in a severe event. Made things less expensive though.

    CuriousGeorge: I would think that they would be ok since the entire munition would stay at about the same potential. I wouldn’t want to be the one to test that theory up close though..

  20. Be careful buddy, this could be used as prelude to bailing out financially failing cities and states with a good crisis prep excuse needed to pull the stimulus trigger. See gansta-ruled Illinois if you have any questions.

  21. A Carrington Event will affect the developed and developing world differently, and coming after it will be different scenarios. The cooler, Northern Hemisphere, industrialized countries are dependent for life, not just security, on an electrical grid that works. Focus will be on restoring physical survivability to them. The less industrialized, the warmer the climate, the less urgency for survival, the less focus. Nigerian oilfields may get attention, but Nairobi?

    Middle Eastern countries that are not on the good-guy list will have real problems. It is in the industrialized West’s interest to promote chaos: look to the US military involvement since WWII. Nowhere did the West stabilize any foe or potential foe with its involvement, overt or covert alike. Only when the enemy became, at worst, neutral, did the fingers of the US pull out, and the chaos move towards stability (consider Central American history here, and now Iraq). But a non-threatening stability. A Carrington Event that disrupted Iran would be viewed quite differently from one that disrupted Israel. Camels in a sandy desert is nobody’s concern but the camels’ owner.

    A Carrington Event in some playbooks would be like a nuclear war without the nuclear part and without the war. Bring lots of people to their knees, not all of which have to be helped to be standing again.

    Of course, I can say this without too much worry, as I live in Calgary, Alberta, and would be one of the first places to get our electricity back. We have oil and gas. The States likes us (with the exception of Jim Hansen and the Sierra Club).

  22. vboring: you are correct in saying that most building and tranformers are grounded, but this is only for the shell if it were to develop a ground fault. This would keep the shell of the transformer from becoming energized and over heated.

    The Main reason the high voltage transformers are vulnerable is that when online, being bombarded by solar magnetic fields the core iron becomes saturated to the point where it cannot handle the excess magnetism and thus begins to over heat. it is not necessarily a over-amperage but can still severly damage a transformer.

    A flare would also damage the protective relays which would slow their operation and thus damage the entire system. As the voltage regulators are damaged, the entire system voltage fluctuates and can begin to trip plants offline in other areas.

    A solution would be to shut everything down until the flare had passed. this would give the equipment enough “space” if you will to handle the magnetic field without overheating ad could be started back up afterwards with no problems.

  23. Some folks believe there is a link between solar activity and earthquakes. And some think the Washington coast is about due for a 9+ quake. So, if the sun blows and the subduction zone then lets loose, Homeland Security will be about as useful as (fill in the blank).

  24. vboring says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:03 am

    > I’m having a hard time imagining exactly how a flare could
    > damage the electric transmission grid.

    Part of the problem are the currents flowing in the grounding wires – thousand mile antennae do interesting things when magnetic field lines sweep across them. The 1989 event that brought down much of the grid in Quebec brought it down in 90 seconds.

    Check out the NASA link Anthony has up above, note especially http://science.nasa.gov/ssl/pad/sppb/edu/magnetosphere/mag6 , a New Jersey transformer damages in the 1989 event.

    Here’s what the OECD report said about the Quebec case:

    The 1989 Quebec Power Outage Event

    On 13 March 1989, a geomagnetic storm affected Canadian and U.S. power systems, resulting in a major power outage for nine hours for the majority of the Quebec region and for parts of the northeastern United States (Molinski et al., 2000). The Hydro-Quebec grid‘s geographic location and its 1,000 km transmission lines to the load center made it susceptible to geomagnetic storms (Kappenman and Albertson, 1990). Central and southern Sweden also experienced power losses when GICs disrupted six 130kV power lines (Babayev et al., 2007). The GICs flowing through the power system severely damaged seven static compensators on the La Grande network in the Hydro-Quebec grid, causing them to trip or shut down automatically before preventive measures were possible (NERC, 1990). The loss of the compensators resulted in a system disturbance and severe equipment damage. The unavailability of new equipment to replace the La Grande network‘s damaged equipment prevented power restoration to the transmission network. The power delay was also due to the damaged equipment and load transfers at the distribution network level. While work was being conducted to bring power back to the Hydro-Quebec grid, the New Brunswick and Ontario power systems helped provide emergency assistance to Quebec. As power was restored to Hydro-Quebec, it received assistance from New England and New York systems as well as the Alcan and McLaren systems based in Quebec. The voluntary reduction of power use by industrial customers during the incident also helped Quebec to meet its power demands.

    After nine hours, 83 percent of full power was restored but one million customers were still without electrical power (NERC, 1990). The total cost of the Hydro-Quebec incidents is estimated to be $6 billion. (Canada/OCIPEP, 2002). Since the incident, the Canadian government has set up protective measures at the Hydro-Quebec site, such as transmission line series capacitors, which cost more than $1.2 billion, to block GICs from damaging the system (Canada/OCIPEP, 2002).

  25. I found this graphic in the report interesting, it suggests that New York, New England, and Seattle are the worst places to be in a Carrington type event.

    New England? Vermont and New Hampshire are nearly all laid-back blue! And the red splotch in central Maine? no one lives there – it’s all trees, bear and moose. (Apologies to any WUWT readers who do live there – are there any?)

    The OECD report notes

    Experience indicates a strong relationship between the losses from natural hazards and the socioeconomic levels of those most affected. A logical extension of this argument is that populations with higher socio-economic levels would be more likely to have the means and access to information to deal with effects from severe geomagnetic storms.

    Gee, I’d think small scale farmers would be the best off and most likely to have food. Someone in a penthouse apartment in New York might not do so well, but at least they’ll get some decent exercise lugging water upstairs.

  26. The only saving grace, so to speak, in the modern day is the usage of fiber optic links.
    Glass fiber optics aren’t affected the same way that copper wires would be.

  27. Have no doubt, DHS in not your friend. Our rulers have been and are now tyrants. They want and need you to be watched, directed and controlled. They mean to impose on you more and more and you will pay the cost of their control. That is all.

  28. Bill says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
    “Why did it take a whole day before the effect was noticed? Doesn’t it only take a few minutes for the radiation to reach earth?

    It is not radiation. The material is not “light” (photons) and can not travel at the speed of light. Plasma is often used to indicate the material of the CME.

  29. The job of Heimatssicherheitsdienst is to maximize public panic, in order to maximize Heimatssicherheitsdienst budget and power. I don’t believe anything they say.

    We’ve had several big solar storms in the era of embedded computers, CMOS circuitry, EHV power lines, etc. No disasters.

  30. The only big scare that actually does scare me is: the threat of social unrest. Boy, do I ever distrust a crowd of humans. I’d rather be in the wild with a pack of horses and dogs, my best friends, when something bad happens.

  31. Recommendations:
    1. The international community should ….
    2. The international community should ….
    etc
    6. The international community …

    Why is my homeland security office so interested in the international community?

  32. @Tom in indy says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

    What would happen to passenger jets that were in the air during such an event?
    ==============================================================

    We already know about that. Even minor storms, such as the one last week, cause rerouting due to navigational interference over the poles. A Carrington event would ground all aircraft, and likely crash those in flight. Read the report.

  33. John F. Hultquist says on February 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Some folks believe there is a link between solar activity and earthquakes. And some think the Washington coast is about due for a 9+ quake. So, if the sun blows and the subduction zone then lets loose, Homeland Security will be about as useful as (fill in the blank).

    As it presently is? As useful as TSA is?

  34. “Bill says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
    Why did it take a whole day before the effect was noticed? Doesn’t it only take a few minutes for the radiation to reach earth? ”

    Actually no. The light from the event travels in a few minutes but what creates the current is a stream of protons kicked out in the coronal mass ejection (CME). Those protons can take days to get to earth. The timing varies depending on how fast the ejection was. Usually 1 to 3 days. So the bright side is that we would have some warning before it hit. We could get lucky and be on the other side of the earth when it hits. During the last cycle a large x class flare happened but it was not earth directed. Lots of things need to be just right in order for us to take a hard hit but as often as big flares happen I figure it’s just a matter of time before one goes off when the spot is facing us and the earth just happens to be in the right position for us to be facing it. I know it could be hard to deal with but at least it will be interesting.

    Cheers,
    William

  35. Lelia Rose Foreman says:
    February 14, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I have no idea why Seattle would be worse off than, say, San Francisco. Nonetheless, I do hope all concerned entities will pay attention. Unlike global warming, this is something we can and should do all we can about.

    The consequence of shutting down 200,000 espresso machines in one toss will be civil unrest.

    Sucking them down in Seattle as we speak…

  36. It is called homeland security and that would be the US.

    Hardening the infrastructure is not a new goal and humans don’t do well in the dark, and evidently neither will DHS.

    Well couples on a date usually do quite well in the dark even in cemeteries until the conversion of the normal corpus luteum into the corpus luteum of pregnancy, nausea or vomiting and confirmed by the test strip turning color all caused by the sun acting up.

    New studies will have to be made on the impact of the sun on ovulation and the social impact on the young deprived of wireless social contact and doing well in the dark.

  37. Imagine a world without iPhones, and you’d understand why Homeland security rates New York and Seattle the highest for likelihood of major social unrest.

    Seattle and New York have a high proportion of hydro power carried over relatively long lines and not much in the way of local generating capacity.

    I live just east of Seattle and the last ‘extended’ outage did show signs of ‘getting ugly’. The pumps at fuel stations don’t work without power…so ‘getting out of dodge’ becomes a problem.
    The fuel stations with emergency generators had long lines and quickly ran out of fuel.

  38. Alan says: February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am
    The only big scare that actually does scare me is: the threat of social unrest. Boy, do I ever distrust a crowd of humans.
    When ‘crowd psychology’ takes over group of individuals, it makes crowd not only frightening but very dangerous indeed, as it was experienced by many London’s residents (and some of other English cities) in the last summer riots.

  39. @Alan says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    The only big scare that actually does scare me is: the threat of social unrest. Boy, do I ever distrust a crowd of humans. I’d rather be in the wild with a pack of horses and dogs, my best friends, when something bad happens.
    =================================================================

    This kind of fear is what’s feeding the ‘prepper’ and ‘hoarder’ fads and TV shows. If you check the maps in the report, it shows the most likely danger areas. So everyone has a decision to make. Go live in a cave, or throw the bird to the whole pile of BS. Sure it’s somewhere between 0 and 1 on the probability scale over the next however many years one wishes to look at. But living is a risk. 100% guaranteed that you won’t get out alive. So have a drink or a smoke, or whatever, and live for today.

  40. I did not have time yet to read the report in detail, but I would not credit it too much. We are very reticent to believe in IPCC, how can we accept an analysis which was not signed at all. We don’t know who are behind the text, how they did it.

    Is our present technological state very different from that of 2003 when we had the “Halloween events” (Oct 28 – Nov 4) with the most intense soft x-ray event ever (GOES detectors saturated)? On the other hand, white light flares do not produce geomagnetic storms, but Coronal Mass Ejections do. So, what is the relevance of the “Carrington event”?

  41. There are three numbers I keep in mind for dealing with something like this:

    .30-06
    .45
    12

    Must admit that I have come somewhat into the 20th century and now include the number .223

  42. Sonicfrog says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

    “Here is the question that I never see asked or answered…. What should we do as individuals to prevent as much damage as possible to our electronic household goods and cars and everything else???? I feel very “in the dark” on this issue! :-)”

    It might be good to use surge protection for all devices connected to the power grid. Do not circumvent grounding features.
    This what an electrical engineer would think, like I did, before understanding that we don’t know enough about the probabilty of such a catastrophic event to do any kind of cost-benefit assessment.
    Now, the “be scared” and “give us more money” parts, I got clearly. ;-)

    So, my questions are:
    Do Solar Flares tend to happen more during the beginning, middle, or end of a Solar Cycle?
    Do more active Solar Cycles produce more Solar Flares?

  43. @ timg56 says:
    February 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    There are three numbers I keep in mind for dealing with something like this:

    .30-06
    .45
    12

    Must admit that I have come somewhat into the 20th century and now include the number .223
    ==================================================================

    .22 is another that should be on your list. Gotta eat. :)

  44. mkelly says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:38 am
    …………………………………..
    Why is my homeland security office so interested in the international community?

    Good observation. Sounds like a slip of the tongue on the part of DHS that shows it’s belief of a new world order (i.e. single government for the world)

  45. I really don’t mind such an event…as long as it is pointed away from the Earth, it can be as big as it wants!

  46. Curiousgeorge says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

    One thing that may not have been thought of is stray voltage in various munitions – missiles, bombs, targeting electronics, etc. When I was loading ordnance on airplanes 40 years ago, stray voltage was always something to check before loading. Similar concerns apply to aircraft generally. Would a Carrington Event ignite or otherwise damage ordnance, either the explosive or other parts such as a missile engine/fuel? Any thoughts?
    ###

    I can neither confirm nor deny that I have some knowledge about this, but I doubt there would be a serious problem with modern munitions nor military aircraft. Though I have heard the Obama has been shutting down test facilities. Maybe he wants us to be vulnerable.

  47. From what I read a while back about a modern day Carrington Event is that if most of the transformers worldwide (not necessarily the big ones at sub-station but those you see in your neighborhood) get damaged it could take up to 2 years to restore power to civilization. There are simply not enough available for total replacement.

    Pretty much everybody would need to move closer to the equator in order to survive a single winter without power or heat. There would not be fuel in the pumps since it take electricity to run the pumps. No fuel, no transport… no food. Even those with food and generators could not survive that long.

    It would be a dream situation for eugenicists but it would be a reverse situation where those countries that rely the most on technology and electricity would be the first to fall. Most third world countries could do ok since they often live under such conditions.

    As Anthony says… it is not what if but when. The whole power system needs to be protected, from the satellites up to your power meter outside your house.

    We are all over-insured but in this case it is our survival that is at play.

  48. I am having difficulty understanding actual mechanism for the damage. I realize that a significant low frequency current imposed on a transformer winding can do significant damage, but I do not understand the current path. I would assume that a large loop would be needed to induce a significant current, but are the induced voltages from power lines to ground or from line to line? If they are from line to ground, what sort of DC voltages will the transformers have to withstand. Will DC power lines withstand these events better? I tried calculating the voltages that could be developed in a large power grid loop, but I do not understand how the conductivity of the earth plays into the equation.

    I do not understand how a rate of change of a few microgauss per minute could damage any small (such as automobile sized or smaller) item. I have worked with many electromagnets which generated in excess of a Tesla. I think of one in particular which was a dipole about a yard long with rates of change in excess of 100 Tesla per second which I could feel in my steel toed boots from several feet away, but I never noticed any electronics acting strange around it even when within a few inches. An EMP pulse may be totally different, but I have never seen any data that gives real numbers for their characteristics.

    I would greatly appreciate any links which could inform me to the extent that I could do my own calculations and see if I consider the assertions reasonable.

    The one thing that seems reasonable to me is replace copper communication lines with fiber optical lines as soon as feasible.

  49. Isn’t the good news the warning time will be 24 hours or more.

    Park the car in your garage, turn everything off, disconnect from power lines and wait. Ammo, water and food for the aftermath. Pull your house off the grid with the breakers.

    Best be prepared, if you hope to run and get supplies, you won’t. I would use hurricane procedures and supplies. We had a local two week electrical outage, it was getting tough.

  50. By 1859 the sun was revving up again after the Dalton Minimum – stretching its muscles after a long sleep. The sun is now going into a quiet phase, and is perhaps less inclined to put on a spectacular like the Carrington Event.

  51. @ DesertYote says:
    February 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I can neither confirm nor deny that I have some knowledge about this, but I doubt there would be a serious problem with modern munitions nor military aircraft. Though I have heard the Obama has been shutting down test facilities. Maybe he wants us to be vulnerable.
    ============================================================

    So far this thread has focused on the potential technology disruption. But I think you touched on the real issue. That is what DHS and others are planning to put in place “just in case”. The ‘reason’ given (potential Carrington Event ) could result in many restrictions and costs. Especially as concerns the comments in the report regarding ‘civil unrest’. This is a very broad brush.

  52. The following article from the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (link below) might have some bearing on the question of how often over time and to what extent a really serious series of solar flares might occur. Now if the GPS birds go down as a result……..Now here’s a world crisis we can believe in.

    If that does happen, ham radio operators, as they have many times over the past 100 years, will be ready and able to provide emergency communication outside the grid and without the need of any satellite comms assistance.

    Jim
    W3BH

    “Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current, Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity”

    IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PLASMA SCIENCE, VOL. 31, NO. 6, DECEMBER 2003

    Abstract—

    The discovery that objects from the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age carry patterns associated with high-current Z-pinches provides a possible insight into the origin and meaning of these ancient symbols produced by man. This paper directly compares the graphical and radiation data from high-current Z-pinches to these patterns. The paper focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on petroglyphs. It is found that a great many archaic petroglyphs can be classified according to plasma stability and instability data. As the same morphological types are found worldwide, the comparisons suggest the occurrence of an intense aurora, as might be produced if the solar wind had increased between one and two orders of magnitude, millennia ago.

  53. vboring says:

    “I’m having a hard time imagining exactly how a flare could damage the electric transmission grid.”

    There are three areas where the electric transmission grid is susceptible to damage from geo-magnetically induced currents (GICs) that occur during geo-magnetic disturbances (GMDs) – (1) harmonics, (2) heating, and (3) increased volt amperes resistance (VAr) consumption – http://www.ornl.gov/info/reports/2010/3445605747724.pdf .

    Harmonics are distortions in the voltage or current wave, which manifest as cycle saturation of transformer cores – especially on extra high energy or EHV transmission systems ( those greater than 230 kilovolts or kV). These harmonics can cause the associated protective relays to operate prematurely, overload associated capacitor banks, and heat non-associated generator rotors.

    Heating is caused by magnetic flux during cycle saturation, which extends beyond the transformer core. The fringing fields of the magnetic flux may produce eddy current heating, resulting in localized hot spots within the transformer’s casing. As a result, heating may cause damage to the transformer’s components (e.g., insulation, core windings, and casing walls). In addition, heating may also cause gassing (i.e., chemical decomposition due to thermal or electrical stress) of the transformer’s insulating oil (mineral oil dielectric fluid or MODF).

    Increased VAr consumption occurs because cycle saturation reduces the magnetizing reactance (opposition to current flow because of inductance) in the transformer core, which increases (dramatically) the frequency (60 hertz or Hz in the U.S.) of the exciting current. This results in the transformer “appearing” as an inductive load on the electric transmission grid. The grid attempts to adjust to the false inductive load via reactive loading, which can lead to a voltage decrease – resulting in line load shedding and isolation or, when severe, system voltage collapse.

    The good news is that any damage would be more annoying than civilization ending. As was done in the “olden days,” impacted lines and substations would be staffed manually to coordinate the restart (and monitor the operation of the electric transmission grid. It’d take time to replace damaged components, but that shouldn’t be overly disruptive to either the restart or continuity of operation thereafter.

    Be that as it may, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) are concerned about the issue because it represents one of several High-Impact, Low Frequency (HILF) disruption events. And HILFs tend to directly impact a modern society’s ability to function at an “expected” technological level because of its dependence on a sustained electric transmission grid – http://www.nerc.com/files/HILF.pdf .

    For reference, NERC is the electric reliability organization for North America and reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and equivalent in Canada, although it is not a governmental agency.

    As examples of that dependence, recent weather events along the heavily populated east coast (Tropical Strom Irene in August 2011 and the Nor’easter in October 2011) revealed dramatically the changed expectations of customers in modern society (i.e., the Information Age) – http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2011/11/connecticut_attorney_general_d.html . An “act of god” is now a possible criminal offense because Billy couldn’t charge his iPad and watch his MTV…? Apparently, it very well may be.

    Regardless of that drama, NERC has issued an Industry Advisory on the issue, which is essentially regarded as regulation by utilities – http://www.nerc.com/fileUploads/File/Events%20Analysis/A-2011-05-10-01_GMD_FINAL.pdf . The Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) had already responded by developing and implementing GMD response action plans like the one issued by the Independent System Operator (ISO) in New England – http://www.iso-ne.com/rules_proceds/operating/sysop/rt_mkts/sop_rtmkts_0120_0050.pdf .

    The short story: GMDs are of concern to electric utilities because of the GICs they produce. As a result, space weather is now monitored alongside terrestrial weather by the electric utilities. Response action plans address those areas requiring increased mitigation strategies to GICs, while emergency response plans address the restoration effort needed to restart the grid – regardless of the cause. The end result of these plans is to minimize the length of service interruption with the understanding that customer expectations need to be managed in advance and during GIC-precipitated interruptions by both the electric utilities and governmental authorities (state and federal emergency response agencies).

  54. polistra says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:28 am
    “The job of Heimatssicherheitsdienst is to maximize public panic, in order to maximize Heimatssicherheitsdienst budget and power. I don’t believe anything they say.”

    Nice translation. But I would prefer “Heimatssicherheitsabteilung”; as “department” is “Abteilung”, while “Dienst” is “Service”. Or maybe “Abteilung für Heimatsicherung”.

    Maybe not a War On The Sun; maybe a full cavity search will do!

  55. Alan says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am
    “The only big scare that actually does scare me is: the threat of social unrest. Boy, do I ever distrust a crowd of humans. I’d rather be in the wild with a pack of horses and dogs, my best friends, when something bad happens.”

    But the other humans distrust you as well; so you can use that to your advantage. Imagine you had a warning because you read WUWT. Now, the normal humans rely on MSM. In other words, just use the warning time to stock up on food that you can then sell for inflated prices to the starving neighbours. Sell them hand-cranked radios for a fortune.

    Great opportunities in the EMP-struck city! In case a full scale evacuation is ordered: Prepare for hiding with some stocks of food. Start looting when all the neighbours are gone.

    EMP And The City.

  56. From the head post:

    .. the sun’s propensity for belching out monstrous solar flares (like the Carrington event of 1859) could almost instantly create a world without modern conveniences, or even electricity. The sun could literally “bomb us back to the stone age”.

    Fear mongering(?) – we and our systems will survive for reasons I have stated before as well.

    See: PJM Manual 13, Emergency Operations page 51, titled “3.7 Geo-Magnetic Disturbances” as to how power transmission ops (operations) would handle this.

    The short answer: The various ‘areas’ that are normally tied to together to form the actual grid (your local distribution is more a ‘hub and spoke’ system) will be what is termed “islanded” (separated) and all will be well; the long transmission paths that GIC (Geomagnetic Induced Currents) normally raise the all the havoc on at that point won’t exist

    Slow news day, crew?
    .

  57. Ya know, these ‘events’ haven’t exactly passed unnoticed by various organizations whose charter is to understand and recommend procedures to ‘cope’ with said events (and from a technical standpoint as well):

    Prepared by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Power Systems Technology Program -

    http://www.ornl.gov/~webworks/cpr/v823/rpt/51089.pdf

    Electric Utility Experience Industry
    with Geomagnetic Disturbances

    Those engineers and scientists reading here may be interested in the above; reference to the actual physics with consideration of the magnitudes of the influencing magnetic field and the effects or consequences on electric power transmission hardware are discussed.

  58. An earlier report here:
    “Solar Storm Threat Analysis”:

    http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/SSTA.pdf

    From the conclusions-
    “A Great solar storm has the potential of seriously damaging the North American electrical power grid. The resulting blackout will be focused on the northern tier of states and the East and West coast of the U.S. and throughout Canada. The damaged equipment in the power infrastructure would generally have a replacement lead time of over a year due to its uniqueness.

    “Critical elements affected by the blackout will include water, sewage, commerce, industry,
    banking, transportation, communications, and in the winter, heating. Because modern society relies so heavily on sophisticated technology, a long-term blackout will have a very profound effect on the fabric of society.

    “A Great solar storm (comparable in size to solar storm of September 1859) will cause an increase in the number of cases of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiac arrest. The scope of this effect will be comparable to a doubling the overall daily death rate for the length of the solar storm (~ 4 days).”

    However the author, James A. Marusek, has faith in the ability of the US to quickly repair the damage: “Should this threat materialize, I also expect the crisis would quickly elevate to the level of a national imperative. All available expertise, manpower, equipment and facilities would be brought to bear to fabricate and install key damaged infrastructure elements and move the electrical power grid back into operational status. Normally one might expect a year or two to replace this equipment but under a concerted effort and governmental mandate, I believe the damaged infrastructure could be resolved in the order of weeks rather than in years.”

    As Corporal Jones would say, “don’t panic…”

    And why is the DHS citing in the bibliography “Trenberth, Kevin (2005), ―Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming,‖ Science Magazine, June 2005″?

  59. Actually timg56 has raised some issues that I have often wondered about:

    Why 0.22 and not 0.25?
    Why 0.38 and not 0.30 or 0.35? Or even 0.40?
    Why 0.45 and not 0.40?
    And why the heck is it 0.223?

    Informed people want to know!

  60. I maybe thinking about this backwards but I won’t let that stop me. Massive magnetic fields or not there is only so much power that can be generated, which is a lot but not infinite. Could the power concentration be spread out to the point where it would not be a massive disaster?
    There are a lot of conducting structures built, there is a lot of reinforcement metal in roads, a lot of big and small ships, a lot of metal in land fills and junkyards, a lot of metal poles, if we were to put aluminum wires on every wood pole in world would that be enough to spread out the power to a less disastrous level?

  61. Can you imagine all the people unable to post on facebook what they are doing at the present moment? Oh the humanity!

  62. For those asking, the CME front from the Carrington event, which made the journey in 18 hours, arrived well ahead of schedule according to on-line sources (Wikipedia). Radiation takes about nine minutes to arrive, but a CME usually requires several days. Ice core records suggest an average interval of about 500 years for geomagnetic events of that scale. As regards the DHS, even a stopped clock is right once or twice a day depending on its geographic location.

  63. Ric Werme
    February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am
    I found this graphic in the report interesting, it suggests that New York, New England, and Seattle are the worst places to be in a Carrington type event.

    New England? Vermont and New Hampshire are nearly all laid-back blue! And the red splotch in central Maine? no one lives there – it’s all trees, bear and moose. (Apologies to any WUWT readers who do live there – are there any?)

    ———-
    Ric,

    I grew up in Piscataquis County (the ‘Big Woods’.) No apology required; the population density is currently only 4 people/mi^2 which is about the same as it was when I left there 60 years ago.

    I read the definition of SVI but I’m puzzled by Susan Cuttler’s rating of ‘Most Vulnerable’ for Piscataquis County; the same as New York City. I suspect that something is wrong with her methodology, data or math.

    BTW, I live in York County now.

  64. And anyone else with stainless steel stents in both internal carotid arteries, go and stand in a tin shed for 24h and hope for the best! And try not to actually be on the operating table or on life support for the duration..

  65. @ Why is it so? says:
    February 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Actually timg56 has raised some issues that I have often wondered about:

    Why 0.22 and not 0.25?
    Why 0.38 and not 0.30 or 0.35? Or even 0.40?
    Why 0.45 and not 0.40?
    And why the heck is it 0.223?

    Informed people want to know!
    ==============================================

    Lots of factors. Cost, ballistics, intended use, availability, etc. As they say in the yard sale ads: “Too much to mention”. Be glad you have many choices. Lot’s of people don’t have any choices.

  66. Y2K anybody? Anthony, I dunno. Everytime we have a sig flare they say interruptions might occur, yet I’ve never had a problem in the city where I live these past 48yrs. I am not worrying about this.

  67. Whatever happened to Faraday cages……why would automobiles be effectively killed when most car bodies are constructed of steel? I can anticipate unshrouded engines such as motor cycles, snow-mobiles and lawn mowers would be vulnerable….

  68. Take the time to read this report as posted by

    mfosdb says:February 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm
    “Solar Storm Threat Analysis”:
    http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/SSTA.pdf

    Retired Admiral, Physicist, James A. Marusek has already done all the research.
    Very sobering.

    It answers a lot of questions and scenarios pointed out in posts here.

    The scary bit. It only takes a week of no electrical power for a modern city to descend into chaos.

    CME’s have already had effects on a modern city – Quebec 1989.

  69. Very interesting. My question is,if the grids,etc. are all down,just how is industry going to get the replacement parts built to get us back to our slothful 21st century living?

  70. May I just point out that the averaging of New England points out how silly statistics can be when used incorrectly.

  71. If “stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii,” how far south (or at least close to the equator) did the electric currents caused by the Carrington event reach? Should there be another one, how far are they likely to reach? Will it be limited to mainly the temperate northern hemisphere? Will electronics and power infrastructure in the tropics or the southern hemisphere remain unscathed? Just how “global” is this threat?

  72. Katherine says:
    February 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm
    If “stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii,” how far south (or at least close to the equator) did the electric currents caused by the Carrington event reach? Should there be another one, how far are they likely to reach? Will it be limited to mainly the temperate northern hemisphere? Will electronics and power infrastructure in the tropics or the southern hemisphere remain unscathed? Just how “global” is this threat?

    The aurorae are caused by a different set of currents at about 100 km altitude extending from both poles. There is also a current that encircles the Earth at a distance of several Earth radii. This current is therefore global and its effect also global.

  73. Why is it so? says:
    February 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm
    Why 0.22 and not 0.25?

    All the dimensions are pretty much covered as the link below will show. Most of the reasons are purpose and ballistics. Other reasons include customs and laws. A .22 is allowed say for small game hunting, such as squirrels and rabbits. But in some places at least 0.25 caliber is required for larger animals, say white tails.

    http://www.gunnersden.com/index.htm.rifle-cartridges-ballistics.html

  74. Mariwarcwm says:
    February 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm
    By 1859 the sun was revving up again after the Dalton Minimum – stretching its muscles after a long sleep. The sun is now going into a quiet phase, and is perhaps less inclined to put on a spectacular like the Carrington Event.
    There is some evidence that great event occur more often with a quieter sun. Here is a paragraph from our solar cycle prediction paper http://www.leif.org/research/Cycle%2024%20Smallest%20100%20years.pdf
    “Average space weather might be ‘‘milder’’ with decreased solar activity, but the extreme events that dominate technological effects are not expected to disappear. In fact, they may become more common. Two of the eight strongest storms in the last 150 years occurred during solar cycle 14 (Rmax = 64) [Cliver and Svalgaard, 2004], while three of the five largest 30 MeV solar energetic proton events since 1859 [McCracken et al., 2001] occurred during cycle 13 (Rmax = 88).”

  75. Jusy says:
    February 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Very interesting. My question is,if the grids,etc. are all down,just how is industry going to get the replacement parts built to get us back to our slothful 21st century living?

    They would pull themselves up by their boot straps.

    You find small islands of power or make them using expedient generation. You use that power to help fix problems at other larger facilities, and gradually walk up the power chain until you can get major manufactures back in production.

    For example there are many historical examples of the Navy feeding power to the shore in emergencies. Most large warships can provide significant power to the shore with a bit of expedient engineering.

    Larry

  76. Oh Good Grief, people…for the last time – CME (Coronal Mass Ejections) and EMP (Electro Magentic Pulse) are two completely different things which occur at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. Yes, they are both high voltage/current events but their effects are quite different. The CME is a very *low* frequency, high current event affecting long wires (high voltage xmission and maybe even local power & copper phone lines depending on strength of event) where an EMP is a very *high* frequency, high voltage event but of short duration (err…*pulse*) which affects shorter length electronic wires (auto wire harness, network cables, house wiring, etc.). Hopefully, when the massive CME is seen to be about to strike (as described so well by Tom Murphy above), all power systems will physically disconnect all power lines from distribution stations, let the event pass, then bring everything back up. It may take a day or two. If you feel uncomfortable about that, throw the main breaker to your house & disconnect *you* from your local system. An EMP would bee *seen* by the high voltage system but it would probably pass though the transformer equipment so fast, the system wouldn’t have time to react. So…relax…your cell phone, auto & other microelectronics would not be affected by a CME.

    Jeff

  77. Has anyone taken old telegraph equipment and induced enough current on an antenna to ignite the paper?

  78. Good thing all the latest Solar research predicts that the next couple of solar cycles will be pretty wimpy. Seems like a half decent time to be a space traveler as well!

  79. Les Francis says:

    “The scary bit. It only takes a week of no electrical power for a modern city to descend into chaos.”

    That would be scary if true, as if it were from a Stephen King novel like… “The Stand.”

    However, modern cities in America (Florida peninsula a an example) have gone multiple weeks without power in the wake of the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes (e.g., Boca Raton, Fort Pierce, Miami, and Palm Beach). It took Florida Power & Light almost four weeks to restore power to those impacted by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. There was inconvenience but nothing even remotely akin to chaos. Even though temperatures were well in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity floating around 100% during the daytime, city dwelling Floridians were well-behaved – http://www.environmentalsciencedegrees.net/blog/2010/8-costliest-hurricanes-of-the-2000s/ .

    And the heavily populated coastal and central cities of Connecticut went without power for more than a week during the recent Nor’easter in October 2011 (e.g., Danbury, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury). The CT customers were certainly… unhappy with what was they perceived was a poor utility response for a record-setting snow event, but there was no chaos – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/nyregion/in-connecticut-thousands-still-without-power.html .

    I recommend taking anything Wikipedia-sourced with a grain of salt, but the web site does reference a listing (by year) of major electric outages for review – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_outages . How many of these lead to chaos in modern cities…?

    Jusy says:

    “My question is,if the grids,etc. are all down,just how is industry going to get the replacement parts built”

    Electric utilities have a number of spare or replacement “parts” (capacitors, circuit breakers, transformers, and voltage regulators) already in local stores; they’re needed for the more frequent terrestrial weather impacts. Many of these are not powered while in storage – the exception are the larger transformers which usually have a local service installed (120 volt) when stored. These local stores, though, would be used initially during the restoration, as needed.

    Also, third-party equipment vendors will set aside a percentage of often-used “parts” in their inventories, as long as a utility pays them an annual retainer for the service. Lastly and if a utility needed a unit for which it did not have a spare, a request is made via established mutual assistance agreements to other utilities who may have a similar unit. And many utilities maintain mobile substations, which can be installed in lieu of a damaged substation; these mobile units may also be made available through mutual assistance, if needed.

    These activities would bridge the short-term gap before replacement units are manufactured and installed to make the repairs permanent.

    David L. Hagen says:

    “What are prospects for safely bringing down the utility grid before a Carrington CME hits?”

    Taking down an electric transmission grid is fairly straightforward, and utilities that own transmission assets have established load shed plans. These plans are often mobilized to varying levels during high demand periods when regional capacity is strained (e.g., summer in the Northeast). Granted, these plans typically target the bottom 10%, 15%, and 25% of load (bottom meaning locales that have a higher tolerance for interruptions like residential areas rather than city downtowns), but a utility could extend the load shedding to its remaining transmission circuits using the reverse of its priority restoration listing used routinely following storm impacts.

    The biggest challenge would be determining how much of the grid to take down in advance. This would require timed coordination across the RTOs to avoid an accelerated shutdown, which could extend the outage (unintentionally) beyond the projected impact area. But there’s a “social problem” in this process, as well. When should the utilities and/or governmental agencies notify customers in impacted areas because there’s a small percentage of the population that is negatively opportunistic. This group will take advantage of the overall situation, if they know the date/time/duration of the outage (e.g., a bank robber, petty looter, or classic mob).

    “Would that prevent damage to the grid?”

    Yes, a controlled take down of the electric transmission grid would result in far less damage than a functioning grid at the time of impact. The bottleneck, though, would be the resource commitment of qualified workers needed to “switch off” and physically disconnect critical points within a compressed time period – a fair amount of this activity would be manual. The likelihood of completing the take down successfully would decrease as the geographic footprint of the impacted area was increased.

    “What is needed to bring the grid back up?”

    Restarting an electric transmission grid is also fairly straightforward but requires coordination, and utilities that own transmission assets have established black start plans. A black start typically begins with a battery-initiated generator (diesel-fueled), which then powers up the operation of a self-sustaining power plant (most often a hydroelectric dam but gas-fired, combustion turbines are becominf more common). The transmission lines from these power plants to other critical points (transmission substations) are energized to restore power to the base load power plants (e.g., coal, nuclear, and oil). Once the base load power plants are established, the other peak power plants (e.g., biomass and gas) are powered up. At this point the remaining transmission substations and circuits, sub-transmission circuits, and distribution substations and feeders would be energized.

    The restart across a widespread region, though, will result in islands of generation which are focused around the restarted power plants and bounded by the extent of their associated transmission circuits. Eventually, though, these islands will be fused or synchronized with all power plants across the region aligned at the 60 Hz frequency, which is coordinated by the RTO. Although local voltages can range somewhat, the frequency across the synchronized grid must be maintained precisely at 60 Hz. If it isn’t, the asynchronous unit will be separated from the grid via the protective relays before other areas are affected.

    Once this is completed, the customer restoration can commence in earnest. However, the grid cannot be restarted all at once because of the large, initial demand needed by electric devices that were left on at the time of interruption; thus, the need for a controlled restart. And this will take some time – not weeks but a few days for a widesread interruption (multiple, geographic regions).

  80. The fact that this warning comes from Homeland Security and not the Bureau of Meteorology is a Red Flag to me. It is too like the IPCC. Both rhe IPCC and HS benefit from public fear as it enables them to increase their funding. Both organizations set about increasing fear for selfish reasons rather than in order to benefit society. In fact society is grossly damaged by both organizations and the thinking behind them. Fear is a powerful tool. We should not forget the most gross use of fear to implement destructive policies as set out here:

    http://scienceof911.com.au/

    It is all part of the same thing – the public losing control to authorities which are out of control.

  81. Look how well DHS handles airport security, and border security. They have as much chance of dealing with a Carrington event as I do of winning a foot race at the London Olympics.

    Since you ask, I cannot walk a block without sitting down due to my bursitis.

  82. timg56 says:
    February 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm
    There are three numbers I keep in mind for dealing with something like this:

    .30-06
    .45
    12

    Must admit that I have come somewhat into the 20th century and now include the number .223

    ============

    Include an early warning system and you’ll be ready. A dog.

  83. Let me second Jim Cripwell’s (February 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm) endorsement of “The Sun Kings” by Stuart Clark. A truly interesting account of the Carrington Event, recent research into it, and the history of solar astronomy.

    And on the bright side, a modern Carrington event would allow me to bomb around the empty streets of San Diego in my point-and-coil ignition ’73 Mini Cooper, dodging only the odd MGB and Triumph! Well, until the Lucas points or coil exhibited standard mean-time-to-failure…

  84. Imagine bringing the grid back online with the vaiied output if any of wind and solar. The future holds some possible and interesting surprises if we continue on the current energy policies. But have no fear as it only takes about 10 years to build and bring nuclear online. We can begin after it’s too late.

    Dog
    .44
    .270
    20
    .22
    12
    Another dog

  85. I scrolled thru the comments but could not see any mention of all the nuclear plants and spent fuel pools everyone of which will turn into a gigantic nuclear dirty bombs 5 days after the grid goes down notwithstanding any diesel generators that manage to start up and run for any length of time.

    The SFP spent fuel pools are the worst as they are housed in warehouse buildings basically..tin roofs and cinderblock sides.Gigantic dirty bombs….tons of fuel rods in each pool scattered across the country in every state.

  86. OMG lots of voodoo science speculation here…

    JKrob: Bravo what you say begin to add rationality!

    OK I’m not a big specialist in the field of Rf & RFI but still know a little bit & played a lot w/t theses things & HV stuff. Also has served as an Engineer for the MIL for some times in fields related to very sophisticated & modern (for the time) electronics & optics systems giving a good opportunity to be familliar w/t the ways the MIL implements EM radiation shielding in their equipments.

    First, there is 3 different things (but related) we need to understand: there can exist a magnetic only component, an electric only one (E-field) and a combined one for the third (TEM) made by E & M field. The TEM is what we call “normal” radio transmission because this is the only one that have the capability to propagate to long distance; in the far field.

    The two (uncoupled) field, namely E & M, cannot propagate past the near field (past around one wavelength). Forgive me if description given is not completely accurate because this is a long time since doing my class into Maxwell Equation, but believe me when I say this is a good approximation. The wavelength is the length it take in space (distance traveled) for only one “oscillation” or period. The thing to remember about the two uncoupled E & M fields is precisely the fact that they cannot go beyon one or maybe two wavelength to induce some effect. Take an electro-magnet, if you energize it w/t a current of increasing frequency, inductance permitting, as the frequency increase (thus reducing wavelength) you will reduce the detection possibility zone around of the induced field. This is the basis of secure near-field communication.

    Any of these fields need to “couple” w/t an orthogonal field of the “other kind” to be able to propagate to great distance (Don’t believe me, go ahead & solve the lovely Maxwell equations by yourself, this is trivial stuff). For an uncoupled field to act at long distance, it need to be of a wavelength of similar size or larger. In other words, the frequency need to be very low or equal to zero (infinite wavelenght = non varying field). But then static or very low frequency magnetic field are not very good at inducing current in conductor, static field won’t induce nothing into non moving conductors!

    The practical result is that geomagnetic field are weak & normally slow varying (I’m no solar expert but competent PhD in the field are welcomed to send some punishment if I’m completly wrong). Then the induced electric current in conductor will be of a similar frequency (in fact exactly) of the inducing magnetic field, and will only become of significance if the receiving conductor is of a length being significative vs the wavelength of the magnetic variation. As the length of the conductor receiving induction is reduced, the current in it also to a point where it is insignificant.

    The problem w/t big power transformer is the related economics. These units are very matured technological gizmo, they are so optimized that they operate at the very edge of the cliff. The presence of a minimal intensity of current at lower frequency than 60Hz, especially sub-Hz component we can call practically DC will put these transformer into more saturation on one side, then hysteresis make all the cycle further in this direction, then… then BOOM. This is truly a positive feedback mechanism.

    What is the physical caracteristics of electric transmission line: One main fact is that they are very long & are also dependant on ground conductivity (to varying degree). So very long line will get induced very low frequency component of the geomagnetic field. This is why we wanna put big serie capacitor (expensive) in the line to effectively filter out (high-pass) the lower than 60Hz component. The higher than 60Hz are not very good but this is another story & power dist. (I’ve done the class too long ago) is not my field. Conclusion: geomagnetic storm are not a problem (magnetic component I speak) for the small induction loop related to home & common electronics, spectral component is simply too low (field rate of change), but major problem for transmission lines & very long potentially conductive object like pipeline, etc…

    Now EMP, like those created by nuclear explosion in high atmosphere. This is a very different matter!!! The specifics are probably classified & I never had access to this exact knowledge but from what I know the MIL take the matter very seriously! From what I know (very little) the effect arise from fast & strong ionization at time of detonation interacting w/t geomagnetic field or ionosphere or TBD (ask a PhD for the details) but from what I know this give rise to very fast rising EM pulse, remember the math around an impulse: they countain all frequency, in this case they countain also the very highest possible… The problem is a powerfull pulse, EM radiation (can propagate) & very high frequency content (enormous rate of change). This kind of pulse is capable of inducing non negligeable current in small loop of conductor, non closed loop conductor will see an also non negligeable potential induced. This is what will kill most if not all the electronics, even if powered off!!! However for the fearmonger, please take note that a lightning strike near you will also produce a very strong fast rising EMP, killing some electronic stuff around but not everything!

    The good new, if the high frequency component is the worst, it is also the easiest to filter out. This fall in the domain of EMI protection, no black magic involved (please note that rf by definition is considered a black magic). The trick, like the MIL is simply to use as much shielding as possible, & filter & double-filter every power & signal input & output. This is not very difficult but costly. My experience w/t civiliant electronics, is as time pass, price drop, quality drop… and most importantly EMI protection & true metallic shielding tend to disapear. Instead mfg install ferrite bead on cabling as needed to pass thru EMI qual. test.

    For the power bar surge protection, good ground, etc… these won’t protect for EMP type pulse, be informed that just 1 inch of your “grounding wire marvell” has quite low conductivity at 1GHz comparable frequency. And very decent DC isolation will form a very efficient capacitive conductive path at the same frequency.

    And for those who prefer the “usual” aluminum paper helmet, please note that it is true that aluminum paper is able to shield moderate to high frequency field (try to phone a cell enveloped in aluminum paper (completly), if there is an open cavity for air or neck passage, Rf can penetrate and worst you risk getting instead a resonnant cavity!

    Sorry for the very long post, but the subject is complex & need a couples of lines just to give an overview.

  87. For those not familiar with bringing a grid (electrical power supply) back online, consider the following. If the power / grid were down for only a couple of days, every home would require a substantial amount of electricity when power is restored. Yes, your, as well as everyone else’s refridgerator, freezer, heating or cooling source, water heater, etc. would exert a much greater demand on the grid at the same time. Remember normally everyone’s furnace and fridge does not operate simultainiously. Add cooking dinner when you have been eating leftovers for a couple of days. Don’t forget everyone will have toilets to flush at the same time which will load the electrical demand on the water company. All of this will create a surge, which is a much larger demand on the source of electrical power. Certain the wind will be blowing? You better hope so.

  88. Peter says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    ============

    We should move those to some storage place underground under a mountain where they will be safe. Any ideas?

  89. How odd, I was reading “Geomagnetic Storms, EMP and Nuclear Armageddon” by Matthew Stein (Nexus Mag) just 2 hours ago, in which he summarized the problems very well, but tended to the gloomy side on our preparedness.

    My main question is, who would ‘pull the plug’ before the theoretical arrival of the event?. lf it was not done in time the consequences could be disastrous, as with our Withenhoe Dam and lack of pre-deluge release of water, Brisbane Floods. Clear chain of command and ultimate responsibility must be established.

    An EMP attack would present a great threat to Nuclear Plants if their electronics are not fully hardened, especially the backup power plants, as in Fukishima.

    http://www.whentechfails.com http://www.matstein.com

  90. M.A.Vukcevic says:
    February 15, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Last night geomagnetic storm was one of the stronger ones since Japans earthquake.

    http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/plotgeodata.cgi?Last24&site=tro2a&

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Maps/10/235_45.php

    Magnitude 6 earthquake off Oregon

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/usb00080ib.php

    ===================
    I had wondered previously,
    what??/ was happening prior to the huge quake and tsunamis a few years back solar wise?

    I am a bit amazed folks tending to treat this as a minor issue or non event. would be worth remembering the reason people could be calm and well behaved in the hurricane aftermath was they Knew, that food water and help WAS available from extrenal areas. if massive areas go down that help won’t exist. and from what i see all too many people are far too reliant on “someone else” bailing them out.
    as for DHS FEMA being of use?
    with their prior showing they’re more likely to be shooting citizens than helping much.
    your wind up radio isnt going to be any use if the broadcasters equipments is fried, ditto water and sewage lack of/ and back up respectively.
    I have developed the habit of not only are appliances like PC turned off, I remove wall plugs, being turned off isnt any protection if theyre still grid connected, ie in lighning surges.
    electronic ignitions etc all at risk ,
    everyone should have at the least a gas camp stove and supplies for at least two weeks if not more., stored water drinking only.at least a one month supply of crucial meds at all times..
    the present earth facing solar event does have M class possibilities I read, the recent large M class wasnt far off X and some issues, we were lucky it wasnt facing us.
    one the other hand I would LIKE a lot of the spy in the sky crap to get fried!
    sick of invasive snooping by govts and others. and be real nice to know usa spyplanes go down.
    reckon the people copping drone attacks would be cheering too!

  91. Undeveloped countries and/or regions that don’t rely on foreign aid won’t even notice a Carrington Event unless they are are in latitudes high enough to see the extraordinary auroras. Neither will a Carrington Event wipe out the accumulated knowledge in science & engineering. So while there might be a large reduction in human population centered around industrialized nations the infrastructure will largely remain intact (a Carrington Event won’t damage cars or buildings or dams or sewer lines etc.) and a very rapid recovery will ensue.

    It would be a dream come true for the anti-human environmentalist whackos except for the fact these nutcases all inhabit industrialized nations where people have the long-term security and leisure time to worry about those things. So the environmentalist movement would be one of the first casualties. How ironic.

  92. @dwright

    Imagine the electricity getting shut off across an entire continent and not coming back on for months. The first thing you’ll notice is that the electric pumps which move gasoline from underground tanks into your car won’t be working. Water won’t come out of the faucet in your home and even if you have water you won’t be able to flush your toilet because the sewers will back up without electrical pumps. Hospitals will shut down after a couple of days when emergency generators run out of fuel. You won’t have any refrigeration and the grocery store won’t have any food left.

    It’ll be a pretty bad scene. The biggest vulnerability is transformers. Those big transformers everyone has seen at power stations and atop telephone poles and such get fried across continent size regions in a Carrington Event. These transformers normally perform for decades without service or replacement so we don’t have any replacement inventory to speak of. They are typically ordered a year or so in advance for pre-planned expansions of the electrical grid. If they get toasted by the tens of thousands all at once across a huge region it will be many months before they can be replaced and a large number of people in industrialized nations can’t survive more than about a week without electricity because transportation, food, water, sanitation, refrigeration, and many other things are dependent on a functioning electrical grid. Lack of communications is probably the least of the problems.

    The only good, practical way to guard against this is being able to predict at least an hour or so ahead of time when a massive CME will arrive and trip circuit breakers on the electrical grid so all the transformers, or as least the biggest ones and largest transmission lines, are protected. Individual wires and smaller transformers and personal electronics will still get fried but at least enough will survive so that a combination of marshall law and emergency services will limit the death toll.

    This is a lot more imminent and real than global warming by a very wide margin. We don’t know how often Carrington-severity events happen but we do know one happened just 150 years ago and if it happened today it would be the worst thing since the bubonic plague whereas 150 years ago when electricity was not essential to providing food, water, and shelter it was more of an oddity that burned up telegraph lines and set some fires in telegraph offices and caused northern lights to be seen as far south as Florida and nothing more. Farther in the past nothing would be noted except some brief beautiful lights in the night sky farther south than they are normally seen.

  93. FYI this link provide info on nuclear induced EMP waveform & ref. to related IEC std.
    [http://www.todaysengineer.org/2007/Sep/HEMP.asp]
    If I’m not mistaken, fast component seem to produce about 50 MV/m/us !
    There is comparative info w/t lightning strike.

  94. There’s a lot of hype here, but also a very serious issue which it’s important to take appropriate mitigating action against.

    A Carrington event will generally _not_ affect electronic devices like phones, ipads, or car engine management systems. If we have some warning, we’ll all have more than enough time to wrap our gadgets in tin foil to make doubly sure, but in general the conductors in such devices are too short to get much of a voltage difference along their length. Unplug everything, and don’t bother with earthing – the earth wire is more likely to act as an antenna. Oh, and watch out for water-pipe earths – the mains water pipes themselves can act as very long conductors/antennae.

    The serious risk is that the power grid is very vulnerable. It’s not much use having lots of working electronic devices if there’s no power to run them, and a Carrington event would likely wipe out all the long-distance/high-voltage transformers in an affected area. We’ll have a lot of trouble pumping water and sewage, and that kind of knock-on effect.

  95. Given the extremely low probability of another Carrington event in the next 100 years or so, I have to wonder if this report by DHS was only a academic exercise, or if it will be used to enlarge their already bloated budget and to justify further encroachments on businesses and citizens. I suspect the later.

    Buried in the report, for example, is a recommendation to accelerate implementation and roll out of the “Smart Grid”, which on the surface may sound like a good thing, but there are serious technological concerns about it adding another level of complexity to an already complex system.

  96. @dwright says:

    “Imagine the electricity getting shut off across an entire continent and not coming back on for months…”

    I was surprised at the number of… distortions in your post. I’ll take them point by point and offer a far more likely outcome or response.

    “The first thing you’ll notice is that the electric pumps which move gasoline from underground tanks into your car won’t be working. Water won’t come out of the faucet in your home and even if you have water you won’t be able to flush your toilet because the sewers will back up without electrical pumps. Hospitals will shut down after a couple of days when emergency generators run out of fuel. You won’t have any refrigeration and the grocery store won’t have any food left.”

    Utilities (including water and sewer) are designated critical infrastructure by the US DHS and FEMA – not to mention their obligations to provide quality service by the various, state regulators (e.g., public utility commissions and state emergency management agencies). As such, they are mandated by law and regulation to develop and maintain business continuity, emergency response, load shed, and response action plans. These plans, which are aligning more with the government agency-required National Incident Management System (NIMS) and its Incident Command System (ICS), detailed a scalable approach to a variety of incidents. Moreover, the plans are drilled frequently and implemented whenever Nature decides to hold a real-world drill. As a result, utilities would continue to operate (albeit on an emergency level for the first few days) – even after a Carrington Event.

    The same is true for life-sustaining care facilities like hospitals. They are mandated by law and regulation to provide standby generation systems to ensure a continuity of care during the loss of primary power. I suspect such facilities would cancel elective surgeries (e.g., face lifts and tummy tucks) during the emergency time period; however, the hospitals would assuredly remain open.

    As to the inability to pump fuel from underground storage tanks, this would be an inconvenience – at worst. Portable generation can solve this problem during and immediately following any service interruption (i.e., the initial 24-48 hours). In the short-term (i.e., upwards of a week), cargo trucks and tankers can be used to refuel due to their gravity feed and integrated pump systems. Ironically, the utilities usually position these units (as well as manual crank and electric pump drop tanks) at their centralized staging sites to assist fleet refueling during a major storm restoration. The grid would be largely operational between 3-7 days post-event impact.

    “Those big transformers everyone has seen at power stations and atop telephone poles and such get fried across continent size regions in a Carrington Event. These transformers normally perform for decades without service or replacement so we don’t have any replacement inventory to speak of. They are typically ordered a year or so in advance for pre-planned expansions of the electrical grid. If they get toasted by the tens of thousands all at once across a huge region it will be many months before they can be replaced…”

    While certain transmission transformers are more vulnerable than others, the distribution transformers (i.e., the pole- and pad-mounted units omnipresent alongside streets and roadways) are largely unaffected by a Carrington Event. And the assertion that utilities don’t have “any replacement inventory to speak of” is just wrong. How do you think a region recovers so quickly from a major storm impact? Distribution transformers, poles, cross arms, fuses, etc… are available in local stores at the utilities to replace those which have been damaged or destroyed. Spare transmission transformers, especially at identified critical points in the grid, are also maintained – usually within the perimeter of the substation to minimize the change-out time with the damaged unit. And utilities maintain mobile substations, as well as mutual assistance agreements, which both aid in the prompt restoration of service.

    “The only good, practical way to guard against this is being able to predict at least an hour or so ahead of time when a massive CME will arrive and trip circuit breakers on the electrical grid so all the transformers, or as least the biggest ones and largest transmission lines, are protected.”

    The utilities would need as much lead time as possible (far more than an hour) to properly take down the grid. The good news is that a 12-18 hour lead time is possible between discovery and impact times. The transformers would need to be isolated from the grid at their disconnects and the line sectioned via terminal circuit breakers, line reclosers, and visible air breaks. Admittedly, the bottleneck would be the resource commitment of qualified workers needed to “switch off” and physically disconnect critical points within a compressed time period – a fair amount of this activity would be manual. The likelihood of completing the take down successfully would decrease as the geographic footprint of the impacted area was increased.

    “Individual wires and smaller transformers and personal electronics will still get fried but at least enough will survive so that a combination of marshall law and emergency services will limit the death toll.”

    “Smaller” or distribution transformers are largely unaffected by a Carrington Event. Even personal electronics will largely be unaffected – it’s those systems that act like a long “wire,” which can then be influenced by a GIC that are most vulnerable.

    Of course, it’s common sense for an individual to be prepared for (at least) a three-day interruption of electric service. Most major terrestrial weather events can easily make such preparations well worthwhile. In fact, these preparations are often promoted by the US DHS, FEMA, and the electric utilities. Unfortunately, the attention span of the average ratepayer and/or citizen is limited to the hour that forms “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars.” And an increasing dependence by the same on the government to provide immediate assistance in the wake of (recent) major storm events runs counter to the need for individual responsibility.

    “Be informed. Make a plan. Build a kit. Get involved,” – http://www.ready.gov/ .

  97. Yeah, the incompetent morons at Homeland Security are really going to be able to deal with this non-issue, which is pretty typical of the entire incompetent moronic federal government.

  98. Tom Murphy>

    “And the assertion that utilities don’t have “any replacement inventory to speak of” is just wrong. How do you think a region recovers so quickly from a major storm impact? Distribution transformers, poles, cross arms, fuses, etc… are available in local stores at the utilities to replace those which have been damaged or destroyed. Spare transmission transformers, especially at identified critical points in the grid, are also maintained – usually within the perimeter of the substation to minimize the change-out time with the damaged unit. And utilities maintain mobile substations, as well as mutual assistance agreements, which both aid in the prompt restoration of service.”

    You’re not wrong, but that’s not the whole story. An unmitigated Carrington event would knock out _every_ high-voltage, long-distance transformer in the affected areas. Although there is some spare capacity, it’s nowhere near enough. More of a problem is that there is no stock of such transformers – they’re built to order – and they will take a minimum of a few months (assuming emergency priority) to build even if there is manufacturing capacity and power available to run it. On top of that, there is definitely nowhere near enough manufacturing capacity globally to replace more than a few percent of HVLD transformers in the US alone in under a year.

    As I said in my post above, there’s a lot of hype, but also a serious risk. As far as I can see the only reasonably practical and cost-effective protection is to install remote-controlled air-gap switches to isolate all HVLD transformers at short notice. I was under the impression that most transformers were already fitted with them, but perhaps that’s just here in the UK where we have fewer.

  99. Tom Murphy:
    My comment was the Top Gear vid, no worries. I was tired of the Hollywood myths and general hysteria flying around the thread.
    As for no power to fuel depots/stations has nobody ever had to hand crank diesel from a slip tank? Or for that matter know that 12v fuel transfer pumps are as close as the local NAPA store?
    Between construction rental (industrial trailer mounted gen sets) welders(truck mounted) freaking home depot, there’s more than enough local generation to cover essential services for a while.

  100. CuriousGeorge,

    I thought about .22, however the only items I currently have to utilize that are a Ruger Bearcat and a Colt SAA.

    But you are correct. .22 is certainly a number one wants to incorporate.

    eyesonu,

    Good point. While I currently like the freedom not owning a dog brings (sort of), I do benefit from having our son’s lab staying with us.

  101. Peter,

    Where do you get your information about nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools?

    One of the engineers at one of the plants I worked at once, decided to work out what the evaporation loss would be if the recirculating pumps shut down. He found out that if the reactor operator pee’d into the pool once every 4 hours or so, the loss due to evaporation would be made up.

    Next time, try picking a subject you actually know something about.

  102. eyesonu,

    A utility handles cold loading – as you described – by not bringing the entire distribution circuit back on line at once.

  103. Dave says:

    “An unmitigated Carrington event would knock out _every_ high-voltage, long-distance transformer in the affected areas.”

    This is under the presumption that the utilities would ignore the scaled response in their own response action plans and continue to operate the transformers during the event. Even then, it’s uncertain that “every” applicable transformer will be damaged, but it’s fair to presume that a majority will be incapacitated. Regardless, it’s incorrect to initiate a restoration effort under the assumption all units have been lost; the utilities will retain some capacity to operate the grid because their plans mandate they do – http://www.iso-ne.com/rules_proceds/operating/isone/op19/index.html . Most of these documents are confidential because of the obvious terror concerns – why instruct such people on how to take down the grid in an uncontrolled manner?

    “Although there is some spare capacity, it’s nowhere near enough. More of a problem is that there is no stock of such transformers – they’re built to order – and they will take a minimum of a few months (assuming emergency priority) to build…”

    Transmission substations, which have been identified as critical to the reliable operation of the regional grid, do have spare transformers present. Do utilities maintain 100% redundancy for these units? No. Do you need 100% redundancy? No, because not all units will be damaged. A Carrington Event will make modern life inconvenient for a short time period. During that interval, loads can be shed and/or transferred based upon prioritizations. However, the grid will remain operational.

    You are correct that replacement transformers will take some time to build; however, a complete rebuild of the grid is highly unlikely. The above measures should be sufficient to bridge the gap until permanent units have been manufactured and installed.

    “I was under the impression that most transformers were already fitted with them, but perhaps that’s just here in the UK where we have fewer.”

    Having worked for National Grid in the US, I can testify that National Grid in the UK is a bit of different animal. The Climate Change Act 2008 and its renewable commitments have it upgrading and expanding the transmission infrastructure significantly in the UK. Although the RTO-overseen grids in America are remotely monitored, not all are automated to a sufficient level, though, progress is being made yearly. A fair amount of physical disconnection would be required to isolate applicable transformers, if a Carrington Event were forecasted to impact Earth.

  104. @Tom in indy says:
    February 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

    What would happen to passenger jets that were in the air during such an event?
    _______________________________________________________________

    I was on a BA 747 flying from London to San Francisco in the early 90s when a big solar flare blew. The plane was crippled and had to make a premature (but otherwise normal) landing in Boston – the flight crew never said what bits of electronics been broken. No harm done to the passengers, although we had to overnight at Logan and I’ll never forget the shag pile walls of the room I got at the Hilton.

  105. Sonicfrog says:
    February 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Here is the question that I never see asked or answered…. What should we do as individuals to prevent as much damage as possible to our electronic household goods and cars and everything else???? I feel very “in the dark”

    Well, it’s not too hard. First off, a car parked in the garage is unlikely to be damaged, IMHO. (a war related EMP might fry some of those ‘on the road’, but the Carrington Event level looks to be mostly an effect in long distance transmission wires as inductors picking up / making currents).

    Yes, that’s a bit ‘speculative’, but reasonable. Old cars with generators (like the old VW bug) ought to have no problem at all. Newer cars with Alternators might have the diodes blown, but I would not expect it. (They can handle 100 amps… and any attempt to reverse volt them has to deal with that big lead acid battery path…) So you might lose the GPS and radio, but I’d expect it to start / run ok. (Modulo those ‘engine computers’ on some being not-so-good).

    Me? I have a mid-80s Mercedes Diesel for which an electric system is a ‘nice suggestion’ but not an essential… ;-)

    OK, so other than buying an old car, what can you do?

    First off, you could put a spare engine control module and alternator in a metal box (‘Faraday cage’) in the garage. That gives you replacements if they get fried. (Given the costs, it might be cheaper to buy an old VW bug ‘beater’…)

    Second, I have a small ‘portable power and light kit’ that usually lives in a metal enclosure. Even if the car won’t start, it can give power and light for many days just off the battery (at low drain):

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/minimalist-emergency-power/

    I also have a set of ‘preparedness packs’. One “car sized” in each car. One house sized…

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/crisis-kits-and-preparedness-packs

    (WHY do I have this stuff? Well, living just a few miles from The San Andreas Fault and having had a 7.2 already in my life… it is nice stuff to have when living in the yard without power for a few days…)

    OK, sensitive electronics:

    Most of these will be fried by voltages on the power lines. Help prevent this by leaving them unplugged with not in use. (An easy way to get 1/2 a loaf on it is to just put them on power strips with surge protection and a power switch. Switch them when not in use…)

    Basically, if you are protected against lightning, you are likely protected against these, too.

    For “emergency gear” electronics: Store them in metal cans or in things like jars or boxes lined with metal. (As a field expedient solution, you can wrap things in aluminum foil – no, no hat needed ;-) Any Faraday cage will do. So I have an emergency SW/AM/FM radio that lives in a metal wrapper.

    Have various non-electric ways of getting things done: Lighting, have some candles or kerosene lamps. Heat, have a fireplace or wood stove if possible. (Kerosene emergency heater IFF you know how to use one and not get Carbon Monoxide poisoning…) Liquid fuel camp stove / BBQ on the patio (with matches to use if the electronic igniter gets fried…)

    Generator: It’s a ‘good idea’ to have an emergency generator. I went out of my way to have a Generac generator that had nothing electronic in it. That, and some gasoline in the car with a siphon hose gives you electricity for days / weeks. (I have since sold that one to a friend and replaced it with a much smaller and superior Honda that has an internal alternator and inverter, so risk NOT having a generator that works in an EMP / Carrington Event emergency… but I have 3 inverter kits and I’m pretty sure the metal body on the cars is a good enough Faraday Cage anyway) Besides, the friend lives alone and would likely bring the old generator back in exchange for food ;-)

    So, IMHO, that’s basically what to do. You can add a lot of ‘frills’ with things like food and fuel storage and a “Ham Radio” or “CB Radio” in a metal box, but I don’t think it’s really needed. Most of the “issue” is parasitic currents in long power and communications wires, not the ‘little stuff’ in an unplugged laptop. So, IMHO, most of what will be lost is “Grid and Grid Connected”. So “switch off” a lot of your stuff and have some that is unplugged / wireless and I’m pretty sure things will be OK. (Then again, we have no idea what will happen to wireless front end stages in such an event as radio with semiconductors was not around then…)

    Oh, and Vacuum Tubes are immune. So if you find an old Tube radio at a yard sale… ( FWIW, I have a “tube radio kit” in storage. Bought from Australia, so they call them ‘valves’… In a real EOWorld scenario, I’d spend a couple of days building a radio with it… likely to discover nobody transmitting… Then again, I can make a spark gap transmitter in a few hours too… Tubes are widely available and used in music Power Amps for their sound quality, so ‘get to know a musician’ and you can turn those amps into communications gear parts… I have an antique tube SW/AM/FM radio too. Needs the capacitors replaced though as it humms something fierce right now, but ‘someday’ I’ll fix it. – The capacitors in them often become leaky and let them humm / not work right. Easy to replace the electrolytic caps… brown things about the size of 1/2 a little finger between tube socket and ground or tube socket an next stage.)

    At any rate, all the mil-spec gear ought to have no problems at all, as most of the police gear too, so I’m not seeing ‘end of civilization’ more like ‘darned annoying’ for a few months and “need to cope” for a week or two. Then “folks like me” will have things well on the way to repair. (One of my first ‘checks’ to be the local gas station to see if they need ‘the old generator’ for a few hours each day to pump gasoline into jugs for folks with generators…)

    Summary: Prep for a {quake / hurricane / tornado / blizzard} but wrap any electronics in foil or pack in metal cans. Get a non-electronic generator and some gas. Old cars are your friends, do not junk them.

  106. EM Smith>

    Funny, I don’t disagree with you about preparedness, but in an EOW scenario I have different priorities. The first thing I’ll be doing is heading to the nearest defensible library and stockpiling supplies and weapons there. In a world without the internet, the man with all the information will be king. I’ll be able to trade for anything else I need, just as long as I can defend the books.

    I suppose you might call that the lazy man’s survivalism.

  107. Tom Murphy>

    I think you may have misunderstood me slightly. By ‘unmitigated’ I meant a Carrington event which we have no warning of, and for which no action is taken. It’s unlikely, but possible as long as there is a SPOF.

    In that scenario, the vast majority of the grid would be knocked out. It is not a trivial problem. In fact, although it’s not a civilisation breaker by itself, it’s a sufficiently large problem that with bad handling by the incumbent governments things could really go tits-up quickly.

  108. Oh, and I probably ought to add:

    IRON boxes block the magnetic component. Aluminum foil only the electrical. So an ideal shielding would be an iron tool box, for example. The foil is just a partial field expedient if nothing else is around. (One can use iron fence wire in a pinch as the size of hole in it is the max wavelength that can get through it. So aluminum foil and / or chicken wire cage are “better than nothing”, but if you can chuck things into an iron box, that’s better. )

    So a very easy / simple solution to stored electronics is to put them inside iron tool boxes. Personally, I’d wrap in foil then place in the box so if there is any ‘leakage’ from things like a poorly fitted lid you have some secondary shielding. At any rate, this is neither hard, nor expensive. (And likely not needed for things that are not grid connected or on long wires / attached to pipes).

  109. Is there any reason why they couldn’t simply shut the system down prior to the arrival of the pulse, opening switches and disconnecting transformers from the cables? They’ll have a day or two to prepare after viewing the CME, right?

  110. For those individuals really curious about what happens when energetic charged particle are injected into the Earth’s magnetic field they should look at the reported effects of the Starfish Prime shot of operation Dominic and the Soviet K series of shots.

  111. Quote of this post:
    “Fortunately, we may have enough warning to shutdown everything ahead of time to minimize damage, but will we do anything about it?”
    Disaster is DISASTER, we cannot do anything, the power is as huge as perhaps we can get just an experience.

  112. Several previous posts allude to electronics in cars, or household electrics, getting ‘blown” from geomagnetic storms.

    Won’t happen.

    The underlying physical mechanism is: time-varying magnetic fields, passing through *large closed loops* of conductors, will induce higher-than-expected voltages in these loops, which in turn causes the over-voltage damages.

    The magnetic fields created by the solar flares are only a few % of the earth’s natural magnetic field — very weak. The key difference is the earth’s field is not time-varying on short time scales of hours or days.

    The over-voltage created in conductive closed loops, is proportional to the area enclosed by the loop. Therefore, conductive loops have to be several hundred or thousand miles across for any appreciable over-voltage to build up.

    Examples of “conductive loops” are:
    Metal buried pipelines, the electric grid (especially the high voltage transmission lines), and metallic-wire communication lines.

    The area enclosed by any conductive loops (wires) in a car or airplane is simply too tiny to be affected by a geomagnetic storms.

    Also consider that most communications lines nowadays (internet, landlines), are over NON-conductive optical fibers — those will be unaffected.

    In the US, low voltage transformers (few thousand volts) are used to service small clusters of few dozen homes. Those transformers will block most over-voltages, and the area enclosed by loops is small — likely no damage to homes — but just open the main circuit breaker & disconnect to be 100% safe.

    We can expect extended power outages, and damage to the high voltage transmission infrastructure, but cars and household items won’t be damaged.

    A gasoline powered generator would be nice to have!

  113. These events induce very low frequency, very high intensity electromagnetic radiation, which can produce electrical impulses of such low frequencies that virtually no back electromotive force will be generated in typical power transformers to block the flow of destructive current. The power lines act as huge antennas to collect this low frequency radiation. The only defenses are capacitors to block low frequency current or hacker-proof automatic switches to quickly disconnect all the endangered units.

    Based on previous indications of the occurrence of these events, it looks like we have roughly one chance in 45 of this happening on any given solar maximum. This appears to be the most probable global natural disaster followed by super-volcano eruptions and then asteroid impacts on a logarithmic scale.

    It looks like the duration of the last solar cycle (23) was almost exactly the same as the duration of the cycle just proceeding the Carrington event, however a repeat emission, should it occur, would not necessarily be aimed at the Earth.

  114. M.A.Vukcevic says:
    February 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm
    Current geomagnetic storm is relatively strong and still gaining in intensity , at the moment at 1% of the earths Z field and 4-5% of the horizontal, should be good for aurora viewing

    http://flux.phys.uit.no/cgi-bin/plotgeodata.cgi?Last24&site=tro2a&

    Vuks would this have anything to do with those artic lows flowing into Siberia causing our slavic brothers a cold arse winter?
    http://www.spaceweather.com
    “””AURORA WHIRLPOOL: Sometimes the sky surprises us. On Feb. 14-15, with little warning, geomagnetic activity rippled around the Arctic Circle, producing an outbreak of auroras that veteran observers said was among the best in months. At the height of the display, a US Defense Meteorological Program satellite photographed a whirlpool of Northern Lights just north of the Bering Sea:

    “A number of images from the DMSP F18 satellite captured the dramatic auroral event of the last couple nights,” says analyst Paul McCrone, who processed processed the data at the US Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, CA.
    The reason for the outburst is still not completely clear. It started on Feb. 14th when a magnetic disturbance rippled around the north pole. No CME was obvious in local solar wind data at the time; the disturbance just happened. Once begun, the display was amplified by the actions of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The IMF near Earth tipped south, opening a crack in our planet’s magnetic defenses. Solar wind poured in and fueled the auroras.”””
    Leif Svalgaard says:
    February 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm
    The aurorae are caused by a different set of currents at about 100 km altitude extending from both poles. There is also a current that encircles the Earth at a distance of several Earth radii. This current is therefore global and its effect also global.
    ~
    Must be an echo.. someone keeps mentioning ring current. It expands and contracts..during and extreme event would we be wearing the magnetic pause within a few Earth radii on the dayside. Everything gets pushed deeper in Earths magnetic field and closer to the Earths surface during these events and the ring current ..lands where ???

  115. Could a man made “Carrington Event” be considered a thermostellar device (like in the 1974 movie “Dark Star”) ?

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