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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

Read the full report here

h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
SteveSadlov

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.

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?

Michael Palmer

“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?

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!”

Jim G

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.

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.

crosspatch

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.

vboring

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.

Skeptic Tank

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)

Bill

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.

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
??

Betapug

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/

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! 🙂

wfrumkin

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.

DesertYote

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.

Curiousgeorge

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?

Bernie McCune

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

Jim G

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.

Owen in GA

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..

Resourceguy

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.

Doug Proctor

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).

Phil the Engineer

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.

John F. Hultquist

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).

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).

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.

Neo

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.

Eric Dailey

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.

John F. Hultquist

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.

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.

Tom in indy

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

Alan

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.

mkelly

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?

We need a new tax to prevent those events! NOW!
/sarc

Curiousgeorge

@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.

Richard Sharpe

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?

William Mason

“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

dp

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…

Olen

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.

harrywr2

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.

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.

Curiousgeorge

@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.

Myron Mesecke

To prepare should we watch Doomsday Preppers.
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/
Seattle would probably be bad because all the coffee nuts would go into massive caffeine withdrawal when the power goes out and stays out.

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”?

timg56

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

David, UK

Don’t panic! Don’t… panic… yawn.

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?

Curiousgeorge

@ 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. 🙂

ew-3

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)

Owen in GA

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!

DesertYote

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.