This is quite alarming, but as Dr. Leif Svalgaard explained in his email tip to me, “…in this case, probably justified”.
Here’s the story from the Independent:
Officials in Britain and the United States are preparing to make controlled power cuts to their national electricity supplies in response to a warning of a possible powerful solar storm hitting the Earth. In an interview with The Independent, Thomas Bogdan, director of the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, said that controlled power “outages” will protect the National Electricity Grids against damage which could take months or even years to repair should a large solar storm collide with the Earth without any precautions being taken.
The aim of the joint US-UK collaboration is to improve solar weather forecasting to a point where it is possible to warn power companies of an imminent storm. There is a feeling that if a “category 5” solar storm – the biggest of the five categories – were to be predicted, then taking the grid off-line before it is due to hit Earth and letting the storm pass would be better than trying to keep things running, he said.
Read the full story at the Independent here, they say they Met Office will be involved.
Of course, so far, the sun has been a bit of a limp noodle, but even a weak head-on CME aimed at Earth can wreak havoc with the dainty micro-electronics we use these days. Even though the overall solar activity has been low, we have witnessed impressive flares, such as this one on June 7th and this one on Feb 14th: Sunspot group 1158 produces an X class solar flare.
For some people the world would end if their computers or personal telecommunications were solar deep fried, so this is probably a good idea. Of course, with the Met Office track record for terrestrial forecasting, I worry they’ll forecast a “BBQ solar event”, nothing will happen, and then nobody will pay attention when it really counts the next time. Let’s hope it doesn’t become the boy who cried Wolf numbers.