Nasa warns solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation

A solar flare erupts from the sun in this image taken by NASA's SOHO satellite on July 1, 2002. A solar flare erupts from the sun in this image taken by NASA's SOHO satellite on July 1, 2002.

From the Telegraph

Video link here

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years.

Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

In a new warning, Nasa said the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

Scientists believe it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.

Due to humans’ heavy reliance on electronic devices, which are sensitive to magnetic energy, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and “potentially devastating” problems for governments.

“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of Nasa’s Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigations, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic. It will cause major problems for the world.

“Large areas will be without electricity power and to repair that damage will be hard as that takes time.”

Read the rest here

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James Allison

I don’t get it. Catastrophic predictions used to be full of coulds and
mights yet this guy Dr Fisher says lots of wills and woulds. Could it be he’s worried that funding agencies require more certainity before granting research funds.

krazykiwi

It must be fun working in NASA’s Global Crisis Warning department: Catastrophic climate change, Nuclear winters, annihilation by asteroid , global solar meltdowns.
The “Cry Wolf” story comes to mind.

crosspatch

Considering that the last time we had a “once in a generation” storm it was about a generation ago, it would seem that this generation, by definition, will get its shot.
It is sort of like saying it has been 10 years since the last “once in a decade” thunderstorm.
Let me guess: Their budget is at risk and they must justify how vital their research is.

Ian E

My God, we are going to have another Millenium Bug catastrophe – head for the hills and buy up bottled water and baked beans, everybody!

From what I have heard about massive solar flares, the car navigation will be the least of your worries – your car itself will not run at all, because the various chips are completely fried.
This isn’t of course restricted to petrol powered vehicles – modern diesel engines have numerous electronic aids to increase power/torque and economy, as well as inhibit particulate emissions, and run smoothly on low-sulphur fuels.
Hmmm, does this mean that my local supermarket may not be restocked in a hurry?
A solar flare would have far-reaching and significant consequences for our modern society.

CodeTech

Oh man… where to begin? Nah, I’ll just point out that after all the warnings about this in the past, there was exactly ONE solar event that actually damaged anyone’s electronics, and that was, I think, 2004 or 2005 when a large percentage of GPS receivers were damaged. There’s a theory that the great NYC blackout was caused by something solar too.
I can’t say I’d bet too high on this being a particularly intense solar cycle if it ever does start, either.
How can anyone read something like this and not comprehend how intensely we are being manipulated by alarmism? Between peak oil, cAGW, solar flares, drought warnings, flood warnings, hurricane warnings, meteor warnings, it’s amazing the true believers can ever hold themselves together!

Andreas

This feels to me like it’s part of the big 20121221 religious scare, why should this solar cycle be any different than the other ones? Maybe we humans are the ones who are affecting the suns activity and behavior… no this is simply part of the big scare that is now so popular. Sure the power grids and power production systems need to be modernized all over the place, but this c**p will only ridicule the issue.

Northern Exposure

Now this is a threat that I can sink my teeth in to, unlike computer modelling, cosmic science is the real deal.
Solar physicists have understood this very real possibility for years, and just like the threat of near earth objects, it’s just a matter of ‘when’ not ‘what if’.
I’d be interested to learn more as to exactly why these scientists are thinking this could happen sometime in/around 2013. Doesn’t the major CME also have to actually be coming in the direction of earth in order for it to have such a big effect ? Or are these scientists thinking something other than a major CME event ?
I also noted from the telegraph article that Dr. Fisher states : “… power grids, would be without power and access to electronic devices for hours, possibly even days.”
Sorry Dr. Fisher, but I think the realistic picture there would be more in the area of ‘months’ rather than hours/days… if thousands of transformers are blown out, it would be months to replace them all and get everything back up and running. I don’t know of any country that carries an extra inventory of thousands of transformers in some warehouse. Tens of thousands of dollars per transformer, and days to make one.
And one more statement I’d like to comment on : “If you know that a hazard is coming … and you have time enough to prepare and take precautions, then you can avoid trouble.”
Sorry Dr. Fisher, but there will be no preparations or precautions taking place between now and then because we’re too busy spending our monies studying whale poop…

Fitzy

I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.
Fitzy’s solar cycle 2012 prediction:
Dateline, Earth December 11th 2012….
Record levels of Arctic and Antarctic ice cover the poles, the Earths average temperature continues to drop by 0.2 degrees per year, Al Gore has gone missing while inspecting the Gulf Oil Mega spill in a light aircraft. He’s presumed lost in the oil sea, after mega lightening from space, strikes the brown and rainbow slicked sea, setting it alight.
/foolishment off.

Jimmy Mac

Yay! Another thing for alarmists to get.. alarmed about!

MA

The risk will increase, but I guess it did so many times in the last century. This is like a lottery — also where the storm hits I guess, where Pacific Ocean would be better than US, Europe, or Japan.
Since we take precaution in case of power loss I guess we can handle an initial power loss, but that the problem is a longer time without power. Certain precautions may be needed from energy companies?
However, even in case of a few weeks without power for some countries I don’t think this is more serious than the debt crisis.

baahumbug

“with unprecedented levels of…….
“In a new warning…….
“Scientists believe it could damage everything……..
“could cause catastrophic consequences for the world…..
“and “potentially devastating”……
“It will cause major problems for the world…….
“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,”……..

“Hey Baa, what’s on the telly?”
“Not much love, just some B grade movie about Y2K….yaaawwwnnnn”

Eyal Porat

Until then, the sun is snoozing.
Sun spots are NULL and flux is around 70.

R.S.Brown

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson !
The control systems for nuclear power plants will fail!
There will be blackouts and wipeouts of the systems handling
the world’s financial systems and our ATMs!
The server farms that run the backbone of the internet will fry !
Chaos !
A wailing and gnashing of teeth !
NASA needs more funds !!!

rc

Seems like some areas of science are now just a contest for the biggest scare stories.
Scarience? hmm… doesn’t have the necessary ring to it.

Mike

Here we go again,
“He said large swathes of the world could face being without power for several months, although he admitted that was unlikely. ”
Now that’s Olympic standard hedging your bets. This sounds like more millenium bug nonsense.

Alex G.

*in before end of world*
What kind of precautions could we take?
Unless there’s a Global Broadcast of “QUICK, everyone turn your phones off!” what are we supposed to do? Everyone will probably be due for their next techno gadget hit by then anyway…

artwest

Anyone free between noon and one today (UK time) might want to ask Mr Pearce one or two questions online:
“Live Q&A: Fred Pearce on the hacked climate science emails
Fred Pearce will be online between 12-1pm on Thursday 17 June to answer questions on his new book about ‘climategate’ ”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/16/fred-pearce-climate-science-book

Old Goat

Wow! Something exciting to look forward to in the reasonable future! We oldies (or olders) are a bit miffed at having to wait for the mega-sea level rises, and oven temperatures, and tidal waves, and meteorites, and super volcanoes, whose projected dates either don’t come to fruition, or are “extended” further into the future.
I want something to happen NOW!! Especially as it’s such an unseasonable, grotty “summer” in France. Would it be presumptious of me to expect a bit of a freeze up this winter (and the following few), ‘cos thet nice Mr. Bastardi seems to think so. Give me something to look forward to, please, particularly with a “told you so” element. I’m bored with the flim-flam of false (or imaginary) alarms…

pkatt

yah and we might get hit by a comet, a super volcano might go off, the magnetic field may flip and the microbe that will end us all is lurking somewhere in Africa … so many ways to die.. so little time .

Ozzie John

Big and obvious attempt to scare the govt into more funding. He might as well claim that the sun’s polar regions will be ice free by 2013.

Don’t let a good crisis go to waste – now’s the time to take over the communications infrastructure.
Funny how the sun “has no effect on climate”, but yet can cause so much other havoc.

The last time this was discussed here, Leif Svalgaard said:
“The danger is real”
Leif is not a man given to unwarranted speculation or flights of fancy.
He also said it’s a matter of when not if we would be hit by a big one similar to the Carrington flare in the 1850’s
He also said that such a flare might be expected to hit Earth once every 150 years or so.
It’s also known that the sun tends to chuck out big ones when it wakes up from long minima….
Reply: I resent that particular euphemism for “throw”. ~ ctm

That’s how it works, doesn’t it?
Bank crisis? Take it over.
GM crisis? Take it over.
CO2 crisis: Take over energy.
BP crisis? Take it over.
Health care crisis? Take it over.

USA crisis? Take it over?

Nylo

The risk has always been there. The pretension that it will be especially likely in 2013 is hilarious though. Someone is in desperate need for extra funding.

Leon Brozyna


♫Money … ♫
♫We need money … ♫
♫We need lots and lots of money … ♫

TerrySkinner

“tallbloke says:
The last time this was discussed here, Leif Svalgaard said:
“The danger is real”
Leif is not a man given to unwarranted speculation or flights of fancy.
He also said it’s a matter of when not if we would be hit by a big one similar to the Carrington flare in the 1850′s
He also said that such a flare might be expected to hit Earth once every 150 years or so.”
I’m beginning to wonder if there are PhD’s in alarmism. This seems to be such a standard line. Like when I saw a programme on the Yellowstone Mega volcano it went something like: How often does it go off? About every half million years (or whatever). When did it last go off? A little over half a million years ago, we’re overdue for another one now!
Head for the hills!

rbateman

Keep that old clunker computer, radio and phone handy. The only cars available will be the pre-computer chip models.
While NASA has had to cope with Solar Storm proofing thier stuff, the rest of the world has not.
The next big one after waking up from Deep Solar Slumber does not even have to be at the 1859 level.
The microcircuitry of today is totally vulnerable.
The cost of the AGW head-fake is telling here… we are not prepared not will we be preparing any time soon.

Garry

It’s a real shame that NASA has been reduced from an enterprise of optimism, energy, and scientific advancement, to a purveyor of catastrophic alarmism.

TerrySkinner

Did you guys know that this solar mega flare (or whatever) is going to be so much worse because of all the extra CO2 that is now in the atmosphere because of evil human beans?
I don’t know how or why but I know somebody who does…

Should w0uld be cheaper, and perhaps more fun, if we all just got a case of likker and sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories. Humans love to scare themselves. Always have.

Carl M

I would remind everyone that at the end of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, there was a real wolf. I told everyone I knew to relax about Y2K, and I have never bought AGW, but I worry about this. Here is a link with more info.
http://solar.physics.montana.edu/press/WashPost/Horizon/196l-031099-idx.html

Michael in Sydney

will not happen…the world ends in 2012 not 2013, mayan calendar told me so.

MattN

All they do is recycle the same story every 11-12 years. I remember reading a similar article about cycle #22 over 20 years ago in school…

Mick

“…without power ….”
I think this what the AGW mob want. Maybe JH and AG lunched a secrete mission to trigger the event…. /stupid humor off
Don’t forget though, this guys want to pump sulphur to the atmosphere!
🙁

derise

NPR does this on a regular basis, it’s called a “Fund Raiser”. Charitable organizations have bake sales and raffles. I guess bake sales are a little low class for NASA….

Ulric Lyons

I have been looking at this for a couple of years now. From study of larger solar storms in this list: http://www.solarstorms.org/SRefStorms.html
compared to minimums with longer spotless periods: http://users.telenet.be/j.janssens/Spotless/Spotlessoverview.png
there is up to 10 times the chance of large solar storms, in maximums following quiet minimums.
The heliocentric distribution of particularly the inner planets, is critical as to when solar storms occur, and so likey times for these events can be determined.

We discussed this some months ago in another context and there is a definite precedent-the Carrington event of 1859
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859
I had a small amount of discussion with Leif about it who said it was likely to happen again and the consequences would be disastrous.
I have some connections with some UK Government agencies and asked what they had done to prevent such an eventuality-obviously our modern lifestyle is far more prone to electrical disasters than in 1859.
They knew nothing whatsoever of the Carrington event and were very much fixated on the consequences of climate change. It certainly would be posible to ‘shield’ important infrastructure and arguably all new installations should be so protected. This would still leave many parts of our lifestyle in serious danger though so again, arguably, this should go right to the top of the disasters agenda as another Carrington event is far more likely to occur, and be far more devaststing, than any man made -and largely imaginary-CO2 induced disaster.
As a species it sems we have difficulty in keeping more than one or two balls in the air at one time and all our efforts are being used to juggle a giant ball labelled CAGW which has the additional problem of being practically invisible.
Tonyb

TerrySkinner

What is sometimes forgotten is the value of all of these alarming predictions. When we know what is likely to happen we can plan for it to either stop it or to straighten things out afterwards. So if for example we are warned in advance of the risk of an undersea oil blow out producing mega pollution like the world has never seen before we can…
Oh wait a minute. Ignore all that. Let’s go on preparing for lots of other disasters. Nothing to see here, move along please.

Curiousgeorge

No problem. Just build a giant Faraday cage around the entire planet. Then sit out back and watch the auroral display.

RexAlan

I think what Dr Richard Fisher is refering to is a Carrington Event.
http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/006079.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859
Not if but when!

Michael in Sydney

This is what happens when NASA gets all its funding from the National Geographic Channel…it does doesn’t it?

Ian Cooper

March 13th 1989. Only 21 years ago! A good chunk of Canada’s eastern region was without power for three days. This was due to a mighty geo-mag storm seen world-wide. This was on the upswing of SSC 22. A memorable maximum that produced that great storm and several others that will live long in the memory of those fortunate enough to see them.
From a graph supplied by Leif in an earlier posting the Solar Flare Index showed a pronounced drop throughout SSC 23. Nothing that I have seen since suggests that there has been a dramatic upturn in the frequency of solar flares, so why would Nasa insist on this scare-mongering?
I live on a flood plain that experienced a supposedly 1 in 250 year event just six years ago. If a scientist publicised the likelihood that we are in for another “big one,” around here anytime soon, people would rightly ask, “On what do you base this statement?” Natural events like the one that Nasa is throwing out to the general public do not fit neatly into the numbers we humans try to place on them.
If all of the indicators were actually being observed to head alarmingly upwards then we would have no problem with this at all. When we see all of the indicators well below the recent average then we should find this announcement by Nasa completely unwarranted, and unnecessary, or as the British Prime Minister recently said about a completely different topic, “Unjustified & unjustifiable!”

Atomic Hairdryer

I’m with Tonyb on this one, and first saw this with the ’89 flare event when I was managing some satellite capacity. Carrington event was a bigger storm and would cause a lot more damage and disruption. I’ve had similar discussions regarding CNI and similar repsonses. Some saw EMP weapons as a threat but overlooked natural EMP from flares. Or an assumption that fibre networks would be protected, ignoring sensitive amp, regen or muxes that could be affected, or just grid power feeding them.
As Tonyb says, we’re more dependent on technology than in 1859 and much of it isn’t well shielded, so I think this is a real threat. No idea how probable another Carrington would be, but at least we have SOHO watching now.

Les Francis

NASA recycling a press release they did only two years ago – same story different angle.
Even the last press release included material from a study that a retired Naval physicist – James A. Marusek authored the year before
read the Study in PDF format here
Mr Marusek ‘s study detailed the technical details of an event similar to the Carrington Flare and the effects on modern society. The paper itself us very sobering.
Who knows if an event such as this will happen in 2013? No one. NASA conjecture? The only certainty is that will happen sooner or later.
My old ’80’s diesel Mercedes is ready and waiting in the garage.

Joe Lalonde

I read this prediction once in a novel, fiction…
SOLARFLARE by Larry Burkett (1997)
Interesting read.

RexAlan

“Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” points out Biesecker. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013.”
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/29may_noaaprediction/

Xi Chin

There is no end to the doom and gloom recently. Our masters understand well the power of fear. Be scared of this, be scared of that.
Time to tell our masters: Be scared of us!
This story is yet another thing for us to be scared of. Oh, booo hooo, I’m gonna hide under the bed till I die.

David_WS

Is there more than one NASA? I’ve just checked the official NASA site and can no mention of this impending doom, neither under information for the public, for educators, policymakers nor media. I’ve checked the archives, but can’t find anything. Are the sources for this story secure?