Still far more worrisome than global warming: solar coronal mass ejections

Dr. Leif Svalgaard writes advising me of this new paper published Jan. 17. After reading it, I’ll have to say that it isn’t a matter of “if” – it’s a matter of when we’ll get another CME like the Carrington Event in 1859 – which had it occurred today, would plunge our society into darkness and chaos as our sensitive electronics, networks, and power systems fail world-wide. The authors call such an event a “global Hurricane Katrina.” If activists and global warming worriers spent just a fraction of the time and money spent on on climate hysteria preparing for this inevitable event, we could ensure a continuance of our way of life. As it stands, they seem blind to this looming and certain threat and prefer squabbling over a few tenths of a degree change in temperature that may or may not be entirely man-made.

Artist rendition of a CME, Earth is larger than actual scale

Artist rendition of a CME targeting Earth, Earth is larger than actual scale

Excerpts of the paper follow.

Quantifying the daily economic impact of extreme space weather due to failure in electricity transmission infrastructure

Edward J. Oughton , Andrew Skelton, Richard B. Horne , Alan W. P. Thomson3, and Charles T. Gaunt


Extreme space weather due to coronal mass ejections has the potential to cause considerable disruption to the global economy by damaging the transformers required to operate electricity transmission infrastructure. However, expert opinion is split between the potential outcome being one of a temporary regional blackout and of a more prolonged event. The temporary blackout scenario proposed by some is expected to last the length of the disturbance, with normal operations resuming after a couple of days. On the other hand, others have predicted widespread equipment damage with blackout scenarios lasting months. In this paper we explore the potential costs associated with failure in the electricity transmission infrastructure in the U.S. due to extreme space weather, focusing on daily economic loss. This provides insight into the direct and indirect economic consequences of how an extreme space weather event may affect domestic production, as well as other nations, via supply chain linkages. By exploring the sensitivity of the blackout zone, we show that on average the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49% of the total potential macroeconomic cost. Therefore, if indirect supply chain costs are not considered when undertaking cost-benefit analysis of space weather forecasting and mitigation investment, the total potential macroeconomic cost is not correctly represented. The paper contributes to our understanding of the economic impact of space weather, as well as making a number of key methodological contributions relevant for future work. Further economic impact assessment of this threat must consider multiday, multiregional events.

1. Introduction

Space weather disturbances of the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space can disrupt a wide range of tech- nological systems [Hapgood et al., 2012]. Over the past decade many reports have analyzed the potential effects of extreme space weather on electricity transmission infrastructure [Space Studies Board, 2008; OECD, 2011; JASON, 2011; North American Electric Reliability Corporation, 2012; Cannon et al., 2013]. The economic costs associated with these extreme events have been heralded as being as high as $1–2 trillion in the first year, equivalent to a so-called “global Hurricane Katrina.” To date, however, there has been a lack of transparent research around how these direct and indirect economic costs actually stack up, which is surprising given the level of debate and uncertainty surrounding the vulnerability of electricity transmission infrastructure to extreme space weather.

Research in this paper has been produced by a similar team that originally developed the Helios Solar Storm Scenario [Oughton et al., 2016]—the first space weather stress test for the global insurance industry. Ultimately, these are different pieces of work. Helios purposefully explored the sensitivity of economic loss due to different temporal restoration periods, in order to provide a tool for stressing the portfolio exposure of global insurance companies. Helios is not a prediction but a hypothetical range of scenarios to enable miti- gation of space weather risks in the insurance industry. On the other hand, this paper focuses purely on the daily direct and indirect economic consequences of how an extreme space weather event may affect U.S. domestic production, as well as other nations via supply chain linkages, based on different blackout zones.

Two opposing views have emerged. On the one hand, some believe that the potential damage would not be that large and that we are relatively well prepared to deal with an extreme geomagnetic disturbance (GMD). The worst case scenario is seen to be an electrical collapse of the transmission grid, probably initiated by loss of voltage stability that will consequently protect the power system assets from damage. The grid connec- tions could then be reestablished, leading to a disruption only lasting hours or a few days. On the other hand, there are those who believe that damage might be initiated before a system loses stability or might occur outside the region of the electrical collapse and that we could end up with extensive damage to equipment and a doomsday-type catastrophe scenario where blackouts last weeks, even months, until exposed assets (with many supply issues) are replaced. There is still disagreement among these perspectives, and therefore, it is not surprising that the recent U.S. National Space Weather Action Plan [National Science and Technology Council, 2015] identifies the need for improved assessment, modeling, and prediction of the impact of this threat on critical infrastructure systems. Although there has been substantial development in the credibility of these perspectives in recent years, there is a valid need to explore how disruption to electricity transmis- sion infrastructure might affect our economy and society.

Modern economies increasingly rely on a variety of critical interdependent infrastructure systems powered by electricity. Although space weather can be caused by a variety of phenomena including solar particle events and bursts of electromagnetic radiation from solar flares, it is coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which are mostly associated with the long-term catastrophe scenarios that have been characterized in the literature. CMEs pose the main risk to Earth and its modern, technological society because large (1012 kg), relatively dense (100/cm3), and fast (>500 km s-1) CMEs hitting Earth with a southward interplanetary magnetic field direction (Bz) can give rise to extreme GMDs [Möstl et al., 2015; Temmer and Nitta, 2015; Balan et al., 2014].

Significant events may see quantities considerably larger than the numbers stated here. These have the potential to damage and disrupt the aviation, satellite, GPS, and electricity networks that our economy and society depend on. This is particularly problematic because failure in the power sector can cascade to other critical interdependent infrastructure systems, disrupting business activities and inducing a range of other economic and social consequences that can affect the global economy [Ouyang, 2014; Anderson et al., 2007; Haimes and Jiang, 2001; Rinaldi et al., 2001].

In particular, it is acknowledged that an extreme GMD has the potential to generate geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) that could initiate permanent damage to extra high voltage (EHV) transformers. Failure in these critical assets could cause system-wide instability issues leading to cascading failure. Further, such high-value assets are not necessarily easy to procure and replace in the short term. Understanding the economic impact of space weather risks can improve mitigation procedures and practices, as it can guide where limited resources should be allocated to improve economic resilience. Moreover, in industry it is not just utility com- panies who are concerned with catastrophe scenarios; the potential loss to insurance companies due to casualty and business interruption payouts could be enough to threaten the viability of certain companies in this sector (despite the use of limits and deductibles on insurance policies). Even during a relatively calm period of solar activity (2000–2010), Schrijver et al. [2014] have shown that there can be significant equipment loss and related business interruption claims for the insurance industry. Estimates of the potential economic loss associated with catastrophic events are able to be used to stress test asset exposure in the insurance industry and beyond. Indeed, in the UK General Insurance Stress Test 2015 undertaken by the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), insurers are required to undertake exposure stress tests for an extreme space weather event.

The scope of this paper has been guided by a recent workshop that focused on understanding the potential impacts of extreme space weather on the global economy. Held at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, this event gathered together representatives from space physics, economics, catastrophe modeling, actuarial science, and law, with those from the property, casualty, and space insurance industry. Now that the motivation for the paper has been introduced, section 1 will present background material and examine past events. Section 2 will outline the methodology, and section 3 will report the results and discussion. Finally, conclusions will be presented in section 4.

4. Conclusions

This paper explored the direct and indirect daily economic costs associated with different scenarios of extreme space weather on mainland U.S., focusing on the upstream and downstream supply chain impact. The total daily economic loss to the U.S. economy associated with a storm within 55° ± 2.75° geomagnetic latitude (S1) was $6.2 bn (15% of daily U.S. GDP). This is predicated on approximately 8% of the population being left without power. This is supplemented by an indirect loss to the global economy via supply chain linkages with other nations of $0.8 bn per day. The total daily economic loss to the U.S. economy associated with a storm within 50° ± 2.75° geomagnetic latitude (S2), leaving 44% of the U.S. population without power, was $37.7 bn (91% of daily U.S. GDP). The indirect loss to the global economy via supply chain linkages with other nations is a further $4.8 bn per day. The S3 scenario with a blackout zone of 45° ± 2.75° geomagnetic latitude (S3) left 23% of the population without power. The total daily economic loss to the U.S. economy was

$16.5 bn (41% of daily U.S. GDP), and the indirect loss to other nations totaled $2.2 bn. Finally, the S4 scenario (50° ± 7.75° geomagnetic latitude) affected 66% of the U.S. population leading to an estimated potential eco- nomic loss of $41.5 billion per day to the U.S. economy (100% of daily U.S. GDP), combined with a daily loss to the global economy of $7 billion.

A key finding was that the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity within the blackout zone was only a fraction of the total cost for those scenarios explored. On average in this study, only 49% of the total economic loss took place in the area affected by the storm, with a further 39% being lost indirectly in the U.S. outside of the blackout zone. A total of 12% of the impact took place internationally. Therefore, there is a great need when undertaking cost-benefit analysis of space weather forecasting and mitigation investment to consider the domestic and global indirect costs that could accrue via supply chains disruption; otherwise, the potential total cost is not being correctly represented.

However, this analysis focused only on the U.S., when in reality we could be susceptible to a multiday, multi- regional extreme space weather event. As a consequence, there is a need to undertake further economic impact assessment including Europe and East Asia, with multiple blackout zones, in order to understand the potential global cost associated with this threat.

Full paper –open access:


250 thoughts on “Still far more worrisome than global warming: solar coronal mass ejections

  1. While I agree it is a Huge concern, I can’t help but wonder what the odds are. Unless CMEs are actually Attracted by virtue of planetary gravity / magnetic fields, it seems to me that there have likely been many such events, and the Earth just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luck of the draw.

      • CMEs are not especially rare. However, they eject charge energetic particles (order of a million electron volts) outward in a relatively small cone propagated into space. Thus to be seriously affected, the Earth has to be in the path of such a cone.

      • I don’t doubt that we can get hit by these things; but I have never seen a credible paper on the circuit theory of the disruptions. or destructions if you will.

        You have to differentiate between system failures that occur because the control electronics (computer) went nuts and scrambled the grid connecting things to ground that weren’t supposed to be.

        That is just lazy ESD circuit protection and is curable.

        But some argue that the CME itself will blow up high power transmission lines and hardware.

        These things are routinely protected against direct lightning strikes of millions of volts and plenty of amps.

        The three phase or six phase transmission lines are protected from differential transients by very tightly twisting the three or six lines of the transmission path.
        At 60hertz the wavelength is 5000 km, so on long lines they twist the lines about a third of a twist every km or mile or so, by transposing the wires on the towers, so that is a whole lot of twists in a wavelength so it is a very lousy antenna at power line frequencies, which is why they do it to eliminate power losses from 60 hertz EM radiation.

        So the same twisting helps to stop the line from acting as a good receiving antenna for such as CME signals.

        But the whole transmission line consisting of three or six wires in parallel in COMMON MODE still works as an antenna.

        BUT those wires are at least 100 feet above the ground at the minimum so the wire and its mirror image in the ground form a “parallel” wire transmission line, like VHF FM or TV ribbon cable.

        So the wires are say 200 feet from their image, and I doubt they are six inches in diameter or even three, so the characteristic impedance of each wire and its image is actually somewhere in the 10,000 ohm range and you could have three or six of those in parallel.

        You are not going to be blowing up transmission transformers with that.

        So has anybody ever witnessed an actual meltdown of a transmission line by some atmospheric transient.

        These CME events may produce MeV particles (I don’t know) but they aren’t going to produce megavolt per meter electric fields in our ionosphere or atmosphere.

        That’s just my opinion of course; but I would avidly read any learned dissertation on the actual electrical equivalent circuit and theory of the expected electrical calamity that is supposed to happen.

        Now I’m not saying that low power computer controls wouldn’t go on the blink and tell trains to run into each other.

        I’m talking about massive destruction of the actual long line transmission systems HARDWARE by EMI “glitches” due to CMEs.

        If it was possible it would have happened already.


      • george, the thing is, we’re not talking about a transient on the order of milliseconds here, but hours. Neither are we talking AC. A CME would induce a DC current.

        Remember that Quebec-Hydro’s power grid was completely knocked offline for 9 hours in 1989 by a relatively small CME.

      • archer,
        1) We were never talking about AC in the first place.
        2) It takes a varying magnetic field to induce a voltage in a line.
        3) CME’s cause voltage in transmission lines by causing distortions in the earth’s magnetic field.

      • Voltage will be induced by moving a conductor through a static field as well.
        The Earth is spinning at 1000 mph at the equator, and the Earth is moving around the Sun a lot faster than that…67,000 mph.

      • The first event changes the conditions (otherwise exactly nothing has happened at all).

        So the conditions are different from what they were before the first event happened, so the next event has to be different.



      • The electric industry have very little 6 phase transmission – mostly 3 phase. The problem with with DC ground currents is that they saturate transformers and cause them to overheat if the connection allows it. I suspect most utilities have fixed this problem for transmission substations. The little distribution transformers are still vulnerable.
        Control circuits might be affected by long term DC ground currents but substations are built n ground grids that maintain a smooth potential and would tend to shuttle the currents on by. A more likely event is loss of large transformers by human intervention. Some of these things take 2 years to build. Any knowledgeable person could put the country dark quite easily – it is a wonder it hasn’t been done. This is another reason for a massive program to install small unit nuclear plants as widely as posssible and reduce the necessity of massive transformers and transmission lines;e.g. every small city ?100k? should have its own nuke sorta like an aircraft carrier only fail safe in a silo per Babcok & Wilcox or others.

    • The species would no doubt recover but that would be of little solace to the billions lost in the process. The 10 million in greater Los Angeles have 3 days of food and ten days of water. Their worst case planning? Drive to Ventura County on the 101 freeway and use their credit card at the Four Seasons in Thousand Oaks for a week until things are straightened out.

      • A 10 day supply of “gravity fed” water? Probably not. No power, no pumps, no water. You can make light of it, but the society we now live in probably wouldn’t survive 7 days without hysterics turning into dog eat dog style living. The toll on human life would be far higher in the developed nations than the undeveloped nations, from a percentage standpoint, if the event was to take down the power grid for any great duration. A study devoted to worrying about the “economic” impact doesn’t seem like it would be worth funding, especially when the economic impact would be irrelevant if there was a heavy impact on lives.

      • I am sure that the Hollywood celebrities have a solution to a CME and its consequences. They seem to have an answer for everything else these days.

      • “society we now live in probably wouldn’t survive 7 days without hysterics turning into dog eat dog style living. ”

        I’ve been saying for years; buy ammo and buy insulation.

      • Two words: Backup generators.
        Besides for that, it takes a long time to actually starve all the way to death.
        Have you noticed how fat a lot of people are?
        That is salvation on the hoof, buddy.

      • Probably not. It is the long transmission lines that can gather enough energy. Newer pacemakers are no longer contraindicated for all MRI but fields have to be kept below 1.5 tesla. Mayo has more.

      • It all depends on the strength of the CME. In short, internal electronics will be somewhat protected by the human body, and any EMI (electromagnetic interference) caused by the CME strong enough to effect the pacemaker will probably be enough to kill the owner by sheer radiation exposure alone.
        It doesn’t require huge transmission lines to accumulate electric potential.
        It’s simple physics. A moving conductor in a magnetic field generates a current. In the case of a CME it is the magnetic field moving past the conductor, but the effect is the same.
        Most aircraft are protected “hardened” against EMI. They won’t be falling out of the sky, but they may end up being grounded because the radars that control traffic will be blind, or the ground systems won’t be available to refuel the planes.

      • It’s a common misconception that a CME would destroy or cause a malfunction in devices at the semiconductor level. The magnetic field of a CME is relatively weak at the local level; the reason it would be dangerous is that it’s physically so huge and across miles of power lines could generate destructive currents in the grid. Semiconductors have tiny current paths that are not very sensitive to magnetic fields. When you turn on a desktop computer, the power supply transformer generates a magnetic pulse much stronger than a local CME field. Your motherboard doesn’t even notice.

        No, your pacemaker wouldn’t quit, nor your car, or your smartphone.

      • @Eustace
        If you happen to be plugged into the grid at the time things might get a little exciting. For my money, knowing when the CME would hit I’d just open the main breaker on my panel and probably all the branch breakers as well, and unplug everything I could.

      • RS: You are correct that it doesn’t take a huge conductor to accumulate electrical potential. However if you want more than a few milliVolts of potential, you are going to need miles of power line.
        Additionally, the voltage difference between two side by side conductors will be practically non-existent.
        The big voltage will between the conductor and ground, a voltage that the big transformers are much less sensitive to.

      • DJ: If you have surge protector, you should have no trouble.
        A nearby lightning hit will be orders of magnitude more powerful than a CME.

    • I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago, that the CME is similar to the Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) created in a nuclear explosion, whereby electronic device that has power running through it at the time of the pulse gets the circuit chips fried. If this is the case, the soultion could be as simple as unpowering all electronics at the time the pulse is expected and repowering after it has passed

      • If your device is vulnerable, it doesn’t matter whether it is powered or not.
        EMPs are another thing that are vastly over hyped.

      • Bryan, you are thinking of ionizing radiation created in a nuclear explosion. The energetic particle that hit semi-conductors can indeed cause the effects you are describing. The smaller the semiconductors, the less resistant they are.

      • Grounded devices are best left grounded. Give the current a pathway to leave. If your home’s electrical system is grounded, leave stuff plugged in, but consider unplugging your house.
        Regarding accumulation of electric potential: a small device may only generate millivolts of potential, but it only takes microvolts of potential to fry an IC chip or scramble data on a chip.

        BTW CME’s travel far slower than the speed of light (about 300 mi/s on average). That gives us more than 3 1/2 days warning between when our sun burps until we get hit.

      • I remember reading that Vacuum tube technology and points/condenser auto ignition are unaffected by EMP. Is this still true?

      • So if you get alphas, betas, gammas and neutrons in you nuclear blast, which ones are going to get through the package of your computer of iphone to zap the semiconductors ??

        Alphas and betas likely won’t and neutrons are just as likely to go right on through without hitting anything.

        When was the last EMP and what did it crash ??


      • For George
        From source Vittitoe, Charles N.
        Starfish Prime caused an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which was far larger than expected, so much larger that it drove much of the instrumentation off scale, causing great difficulty in getting accurate measurements. The Starfish Prime electromagnetic pulse also made those effects known to the public by causing electrical damage in Hawaii, about 1,445 kilometres (898 mi) away from the detonation point, knocking out about 300 streetlights, setting off numerous burglar alarms and damaging a telephone company microwave link. The EMP damage to the microwave link shut down telephone calls from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands

      • If it only takes microvolts to destroy electronics, then all electronics should already have been destroyed since the operating voltage for all electronics ranges from 3.3 to 5 volts.

      • RS, I think some of them travel faster than that.
        I seem to recall only a day or two of warning from some of the bigger ones.

      • Perhaps Dr. Svalgaard could tell us if the velocity of the CME is proportional to the energy and size of the discharge?
        IOW, do the larger ones move faster?
        The average may be 300 mps, but they can get here in 13 hours, and if the strength of the CME is proportional to the velocity, then a Carrington event sized CME may travel faster than that.

  2. If this had been published in the NYT or Washington Post, there would have been a Giant Floating Head of Trump shooting flames out of his mouth in that graphic, in place of the Sun.

    • What is worse is the number of folks who are taken in by the left-owned MSM and now claim that anything else is “fake news”. The level of anti-current-administration propaganda in the press just keeps rising like the Mann hockey stick graph. Folks around me are getting panic stricken by the thought of rebuilding the American government and its system of administration. They really do want the government to control them, instead of seizing this chance to renovate the system that’s been bleeding their paychecks all their working years by scaring them with “potential threats” and promising protection through purchased pennants.

      • I’m much more concerned about CNN going off the air because all of their talking heads have massive heart attacks or strokes.

        These are surely the dumbest people in the entire entertainment industry.

        They spent all of Saturday or Sunday or both talking about the special relationship between President Trump (POTUS) and Fox News.

        Never said out CNN’s eight year love affair with Obumma


      • Obama lied, Trump lies, the media lies about their lies… it’s all just a giant ball of shameless lying.

  3. It isn’t even if or when you know … it is also about how big.

    It would be extraordinarily short-sighted to think that the Carrington Event is even all that exceptionally large as far as these things go. Based on just the Zipf-statistics of coronal mass ejections compiled both directly and by proxy in the last few hundred years, it is pretty clear that larger than Carrington events aren’t just probable, but possible. Indeed, a friend of mine who works in ‘space weather’ notes that the satellite direct-observation record alone shows at least 4 ‘events’ larger than Carringon occurred in the last 40 years. We got LUCKY that they weren’t pointed at us.

    Looking at the CMEs that are barely detectable on other stars that are otherwise nearly clones of Sol, it is also clear that Sol-like stars can undergo periods of their lives where they are far more prone to CMEs that are 10× to 1000× larger than Carrington.

    No, we should never take Sol’s present quiescent eructations as a permanently stable mode.
    And yes, larger-than-Carrington events would create havoc for our satellite systems, for power distribution, for telephony and remote communications.

    But like the people of Japan who were completely taken unawares by the Great Tsunami just a few years back, we also work with “best practices” communications infrastructures. Which someday WILL get hit.

    Just a matter of time.
    And LUCK.


    • The Earth intercepts a tiny portion of the space around the Sun. I wouldn’t trust any modelling yet, but I’d guess we can’t have been all that lucky.

      That said, the weak anthropic principle seems to get stronger and stronger the more we learn.

  4. It seems to me that this is much ado about very little. The sun is now monitored by satellites and CMEs are detected along with their relative strength and direction. Should a strong fast one be aimed at earth at 500km/sec, earth has about 83 hours to prepare since it is ~150 million km away. Get people off the space station. Protect satellites maybe by turning them off? Dunno. If thought bad, plenty of time to isolate critical terrestrial infrastructure an hour before it arrives. Inconvenient? Sure. Costly? Some, mitigated by being planned in advance rather than a surprise blackout. But scenarios where high voltge transformers are fried and it takes a year to replace them are IMO avoidable. Similar to preparing for a strong hurricane when in the storm track.
    There are a lot more realistic and likely things that could damage critical grid infrastructure, like a cyber attack such as the one that took down Ukraine grid. US grid is highly computer automated, but almost none of it is yet cybersecure AFAIK.

    • But scenarios where high voltge transformers are fried and it takes a year to replace them are IMO avoidable.
      The issue here is to what degree we can predict what will happen. Just turning off the power grid has an large cost and if nothing happens who will pick up that cost?
      The good news: we are getting better at predicting the effects and monitoring the sun [implied request: send more money].

      • Speed of light ~ 8 miutes plus 20 secomds. But not CMEs that are Mass ejections. I used the papers ‘fast’ 500km/sec and 150million km distance to caculate the ~3.5 days.

      • The fastest ( and biggest) CMEs moved with about 1000 km/s on average, It will take at least 24…36 hours untill the mass arrives at earth. Mass is not light! I think it could be possible to estimate the magnitude of an earth directed CME from satellite movies ( mass and speed). Anyway: if it’s enough to avoid big damages…who knows? We don’t have enough calibration…

      • Some travel far faster than the 3.5 day average.
        13 hours seems to be the upper limit noted so far.
        That is a lot less than 3.5 days. If it happened in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, it may not be possible to do much preparation.
        I am wondering if the velocity is proportional to the strength of the event?
        If so, the 3.5 day average s meaningless in preparing for a large and potentially damaging event.

        To follow up with a different line of thought mentioned above, we have learned that there is no galactic orientation of CMEs, but do they tend to be emitted from near the solar equator?
        IOW, they are not random is a spherical orientation, are they?
        I am thinking few if any are emitted from the poles of the sun.

    • No computer connected to a network is ever really secure, the most you can really do is make unauthorized access increasingly inconvenient (mainly by arresting people).

  5. I agree that any electronics connected to a conductor pathway several meters long could be damaged by EMP effects, but would a cellphone be damaged by such an event? And if not if you turned the main breaker off in your house over the duration of such an event and isolated your internal electronics in your home from the power grid, would your household electronics be ok?

      • Don’t forget the impact on pipelines. Discussed only briefly in the NOAA scales link above. BTW, there are 3 separate scales referenced/clickable in that link.

      • Above ground pipelines are grounded every few feet. They can’t build up a big voltage potential.
        Buried pipelines are continuously grounded.

      • So in theory if you thought that a massive CME was going to create a serious EMP pulse all of the fuses in the major transformers throughout the grid could be disengaged and everyone could turn off their main breaker in their homes for a day or two and most of infrastructure could survive such an event. But without a plan such an event would burn out any transformer hanging on a pole and it would take 2 years to manufacture all of them.

      • How about thousands of miles, and built to withstand DIRECT lightning strikes on the actual hardware, like wires, transformers, and switching stations.

        What is the microvolts per meter of these EMI fields ?


      • LT — We’d probably lose a lot of them, but if the profit margin on transformers suddenly jumps 10,000% people will find ways to make a lot of them very quickly.

      • “but the real issue is the much longer wires of the power grid”

        Power companies are not stupid, but are experts in their field, just like astrophysics are GOOD in their field but potentially very weak outside their field of expertise.

        The use of a simple series capacitor to remove the SLOWLY varying induced DC from a GIC (Ground Induced Current due to a CME) is but ONE element that can be used to prevent catastrophic damage to a transformer in a power transmission ‘path’ or circuit.

    • It’s my understanding most modern automobiles would be disabled by an EMP event, and probably aircraft as well. Without transportation and communication, it would be very difficult to recover from such an event quickly enough to avoid the worst.

      • I have often heard that, however I do not believe that to be true, aircraft are struck by lightning often and besides minor damage on the trailing edges of the wings they generally do not receive any damage to the electronics.

      • Lt that is because the metal skin creates a Faraday cage. No electricity can get inside. 787 uses mostly a wire mesh (some places foil) to build the cage. Lightning protection was one cause of program delays.

      • This really is one of those ‘your mileage may vary’ things. link Cars and trucks can be destroyed by lightning. On the other hand, you’re still much safer in your car than out.

        Aircraft are largely immune to lightning damage. link

        EMP is a different kettle of fish. The question is how fast the energy increases and decreases. The faster the pulse changes, the higher the frequencies are that are generated. The higher the frequency, the smaller the hole in the Faraday cage it will penetrate. The result is that aircraft have to be deliberately engineered to be hardened against EMP. link A sufficiently nasty EMP is dangerous to aircraft.

        As frequencies rise, it gets hard to build an effective Faraday cage if you have to pass power and signals in and out. :-( Like a lot of things, it’s easy in theory.

      • A EMP from a nuclear warhead will permaently disable a car. However the EMP from a CME is a very different animal. A Warhead EMP is a pulse lasting microseconds long creating very high power microwaves which can effect very small electronics. A CME pulse will be at least a 1000 times longer and it is primarily a low frequency magnetic event. The CME magnetic field will create voltages in the car wiring but it would not be enough to disable it.

        However the grid has wires many miles long meaning the voltages created by a CME magnetic field would be much higher. Probably several times higher than the normal operating voltage. A well built grid will have , short circuit, and ground fault protection to deal with lightning. A lightning strike is and EMP only microseconds long with voltages of at least a million volts and about 30,000 amps. A typical lightning strike is actually a more substatial EMP than a CME induced EMP due to the higher voltages and currents. All planes are built to withstand them and many cars are simulary unaffected.

      • I design aircraft and spacecraft for a living. We take this stuff seriously. All aircraft are “hardened” against EMI. It is more that just shielding as the shielding will accumulate a charge that must be channeled away from delicate instruments or potential explosive atmospheres such as partially filled fuel tanks. A substantial bit of thinking and testing goes into each part of the design.
        We also are aware that adversaries will “weaponize” EM generating devices so we protect against that too.
        Bear in mind the EM field on an aircraft carrier’s deck is about as bad a place as can be imagined for EM radiation (from all the onboard radars and electronics) and we do just fine in those situations. Lightning strikes are even worse and we handle those too.
        Next time you are flying across country in a jet liner, be thankful that somebody has already thought about these things.

      • “A EMP from a nuclear warhead will permaently disable a car.”

        Depends what you mean by “permanently.” Third World countries are full of autos that used to have electronic components. Probably wouldn’t take First World countries very long to figure out workarounds for a mass EMP.

      • Steven F February 1, 2017 at 12:33 pm: “A EMP from a nuclear warhead will permaently disable a car.”

        Mario Rabinowitz says the calcs are off (the ESTIMATES are way too high), so, no.

        And this is not considering yet the partial shielding a car body affords …

    • Your cell phone won’t work if the towers and data lines are smoked, and even if they survive the grid is still fragile.

  6. One of today’s previous stories was about the Earth’s poles flipping. That could leave us temporarily defenceless. That, plus even a weak CME, could be devastating.

    Anyone who thinks our society could withstand the destruction of all its electronics is living in cloud cuckoo land. We no longer have the systems in place to do things the way we did them in the 1950s.

    • Whilst Christmas shopping in Norfolk in the late 80’s (long ago when the internet was known as BBS), the cash registers at a major mall department store went down because of a computer failure. Hours and hours in a large metropolitan area in a large department store the weekend before Christmas – and they stopped sales. I worked in IT, even back then. I was stupified. You go to the electronics department, break out a bunch of calculators, and you start doing business the old fashioned way. They still had credit card slips and the old style card stamping machines back then. No reason to stop taking money. That was just stupid. But imagine if that happened today? There really wouldn’t be any alternative.

      • It has happened much more recently with a big box electronics store.
        I had to fix things up so that it wouldn’t happen again … without really being able to do what was needed because it would cost money.

        This was the same idea, salespeople log on to their point of sale terminals to cash out the customer. One Black Friday, the authentication systems crashed, mostly due to load. Of course, they couldn’t get them back up again because every single POS terminal immediately tried to authenticate and crashed the system again.

        This took out all stores in the US, Canada and Mexico. On Black Friday.
        No backup systems, and no willingness to spend the money required after the event.

        When I first started my job, I got the chance to see the internal workings of a lot of big names in US finance, retail and manufacturing. I was ready to be impressed by the heavy duty professionally created and run IT. Instead, I found it was mostly held together with duct tape and bailing wire, and could see the distinct possibility of complete melt-down if the wind blew the wrong way.

        The unwillingness to spend money is endemic. Made worse by seeing these same companies spending huge sums on political donations and other “good works”, a fraction of which would fix these problems.

        I have given up worrying. I am content just to sit back and watch the fireworks.

  7. Protecting against CME is the same as for against an EMP nuclear attack. N. Korea is feverishly working to attain such capability. A nuclear bomb delivered by missile and detonated high over N. America (most likely Canada) would be devastating, and such an attack is much more likely than a CME. We need to spend the money now to harden our critical electrical and electronic infrastructure. The power grid is one stupendous problem, but all the millions of automobiles, aircraft, and communication devices are another.

    • Brian356, see my previous comment about hardened aircraft. We already got you covered. You think the engineers who design the modern systems haven’t though about these things? I cannot speak for the automobile industry, as they can simply coast to a stop if their system losses power. Not so easy for aircraft

      However I would suspect that since CME’s occur frequently (albeit small) and nobody has ever used an EMP device in anger, your comment on the likelihood of attack is a bit off.

    • “The power grid is one stupendous problem”

      NO, its not.

      You’re just not up to speed or unacknowledged of changes implemented particularly since 1989 in poer transmission AND the practice of “islanding” implemented for portions of the grid, especially for the higher latitude transmission paths.

  8. Overhead transmission lines are unsightly and therefore underground cables are sometimes used to avoid ruining beautiful countryside. Would underground power cables be safe from a Carrington event?

    • Typically only relatively low voltage distribution cables are buried. Very high voltage lines cannot be buried (at least economically)

      • @Roy, @Kenw: Neither do underground lines even protect significantly against lighting strikes. This is why even in storm-prone areas of the US the bulk of transmission lines are overhead. Though they require repair/replacement considerably more often, they are much easier/cheaper to service than buried lines, & especially so when compared to lines buried deep enough to make a difference.

      • Not to mention expansion and contraction of miles long cables is not so simple to deal with as it is when over head, and they just sag more.

      • EM penetrates the earth, but any potential that is built up in the pipeline is immediately bled off to the earth.

      • MarkW, I’d think it would depend on the “soil” conductivity. Dry sand wouldn’t conduct much, but wetter soils would. The NOAA Space Weather site above says pipelines could indeed carry big currents, but who trusts NOAA anymore?

      • Let’s assume the pipe is one foot in diameter and has a skin thickness of half an inch.

        Compare this to a wire in your house that is rated at 20 amps and is just over 1/10th of an inch in diameter.

    • NO underground does not protect the cables from the megnetic field of a CME. It would protect the wires from a high power radio wave from a nuclear warhead EMP. CMEs don’t generate high frequency high power radio waves.

    • Underground doesn’t necessarily protect from a CME GMD, the magnetic field of the entire Earth is distorted, which causes the damaging induced current by the movement of the magnetic field. The big transformers get clobbered by half-wave core saturation; grounding doesn’t help because even the ground has induced currents running through it.
      Imagine the leading edge of the magnetosphere (4) getting pushed back halfway to the planet.

  9. The perfect storm – the magnetic shield weakening in preparation for the pole flip, and a CME. Yea, that is something more pressing than fudging temperatures to maintain a grant.

    • Yeahbut, how do we make money offa this? Ground loops killing off threatened species? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  10. “Although chromospheric eruptions involve the transfer of energy to the particles (directly through reconnections or indirectly by generating instabilities and shock waves in the crown), the immense shock waves that accelerate the coronal ejections can excite the particles On a much larger scale. These energetic particles must be dissociated from those associated with chromospheric eruptions because they are differentiated by their composition, their charge and their spatial dispersion, the latter being much more localized.

    Today the theory of Dr. Jack Gosling is accepted because it is demonstrated that the coronal ejections are at the origin of the strongest magnetic storms and the phenomena of auroras that accompany them. These phenomena are related to the high intensity and configuration of magnetic field lines, their speed, and not to the energy of the particles.”

  11. Just curious, if we know one of these CME events are coming, we certainly will have at lease a few hours notice, could we not just power down our entire electrical grid until the event passes? Would there be a lot less damage to our electrical grid and infrastructure if we just turned everything off for a day or so?

    • Too many things depends on continuous power. E.g. a blast furnace:
      “Because of the energy cost and structural stress associated with heating and cooling a blast furnace, typically these primary steel making vessels will operate on a continuous production campaign of several years duration. Even during periods of low steel demand, it may not be feasible to let the blast furnace grow cold, though some adjustment of the production rate is possible”.

      • FWIW “kraft” type pulp (paper) mills as well. When I was a child my father worked shifts in a large Idaho paper mill. Every winter he pulled extra shifts, all hands on deck, over the two-week-long “annual shutdown”, during which maintenance, cleanup, and upgrades would be performed. It took days just to shut down the mill, and days again to start it back up again and enable it to produce pulp and make paper. When I asked why, my dad chuckled and said “you have no idea what’s involved in an endeavor like that.”

      • Yes, it is true that many systems require continuous power. However, systems that require continuous power also have backup power in the event that the grid shuts down. I think we could still shut down the majority of the power grid during a CME. Critical systems like emergency, hospitals, security installations, water treatment plans, critical industrial infrastructure and so on all have backup power to power some of their systems and they could continue to operate during a CME event. If some of the backup systems fail during a CME event the rest of the grid could be fired back up after the CME event to repair the damaged areas.

        The danger that a large CME posses to humanity requires us to come up with contingency plans to mitigate the damage these events can cause. If that means shutting down the power grid to avoid excessive damage than so be it. That would be far better than to send large parts of the earth back into the pre-industrial era

      • Early December 2016 an aluminum smelter in Victoria Australia suffered a loss of power from the state electrical supplier.
        Result : one third of their smelter pots lost power and the contents solidified.
        Estimated production cost lost estimated at $ 1 million per day.
        The plant was considered for closure due to the cost of repairing the damaged parts of the plant, however a deal with the Australian federal Government and State government circumvented the closure.

    • Yes powering down the entire grid before it hits would protect most of the grid. The grid operator can remotely turn off circuit breakers on all transmission lines in a few minutes. Most devices would not be permanently damaged by being powered off for a day or so. Yes there will be some things that may be damaged by a long shutdown but most owners of such equipment have mitigation procedures minimize the financial losses. Yes shutting down a large factory is a time consuming event but when the grid operator shuts down the grid you are just talking about a regular blackout which typically doesn’t do damage.

      • and what if we get 2 events in a short time span (days, weeks) and the first event fries the satellites ?

  12. A Carrington event X a million ++++++
    If a huge CME has a direct hit on the earth and it’s vulnerable electric grid (An avoidable situation if the money was spent to harden the electrical infrastructure) it’s back to the middle ages in a heartbeat. Humans will be the first casualty, riots, starvation and a massive die off – the warmist will be first, they are a pampered group who know nothing about real life and have very few survival skills, except rent seeking and free fancy face stuffing climate conferences!

  13. How suddenly do CME’s start? If pne was detected in its growth phase, would it be possible to create a deliberate, controlled power cut, to forestall the inductive effects of the CME on long high power cables and the resulting equipment damage? So you still get a power cut but without the infrastructure losses.

    • It starts very fast on the sun but it takes 8 minutes for the light from the sun to reach earth. Fortunately the main effects of a CME travel much slower than light. Today sattelites can predict the arrival of a CME and its strength at a minimum of a few hours before its arrival. In most cases we will have about 1/2 a day to get ready.

      • “Not enough Faraday cages,”


        Or didn’t you know that?

        The harm is rendered by the fluctuating EARTH’S magnetic field at the surface, you see …

  14. I wonder what kind of pardoner’s tax will be imposed upon us if this goes mainstream enough that someone tries to exploit it.

    This is sort of like my flea on the dog analogy – in this case, instead of lying in front of a fire, this is a pooch actually burning up in one. Shut off the power, and you have the equivalent of the zombie apocalypse. In a way, it’s amazing that that’s all it would take.

    There’s a certain arrogance that underwrites the belief that humans are in control. But some things – call it an ‘unforeseeable act of God’ (or nature, or Gaea, or the unknowable x-factor of your choice) – these things simply have to be ridden out if they can be. Or they ride right over you. And when our species is finally selected for extinction (and one day we will be), I doubt we will have much to say about it.

  15. Yeah well.. Trump ought to show leadership and call for an International CME Protocol Conference to make sure there is super-coordination across the globe in detection and grid shutdown … replacement parts need to be built and inventoried as well… this is real SAVE THE PLANET… not a pretext for Green Malthusian agendas

  16. “If activists and global warming worriers spent just a fraction of the time and money spent on on climate hysteria preparing for this inevitable event, we could ensure a continuance of our way of life. As it stands, they seem blind to this looming and certain threat and prefer squabbling over a few tenths of a degree change in temperature that may or may not be entirely man-made.”

    The author doesn’t understand, the global warming worriers WANT this inevitable event to happen. How else can they ring in the New Stone Age.

    • The Amish in my area, if they successfully defend themselves from the Gov and LE warlords, with be back in the early 19th century within a few months.

  17. Yup. Huge solar ejections are inevitable and beyond the control of mankind.
    This was loosely dramatized in “Knowing” 2009.

    So I am intrigued by such physical phenomena but I simply do not worry about it.

    ELEs like gamma beams from black holes, CMEs, asteroid collisions, primordial bacteria poisoning the atmosphere, super volcanoes, etc are cool things to ponder. Don’t worry, be happy.

      • I was stunned. Stop free trade. Save US bacon!!!
        Or, much ado about nothing. We raise batches of hogs (buy the piglets, sell market weight hogs at ~9 months. Feed with surplus corn. Pork prices got so low wasn’t worth it. Took the barn/ feeder space to grow out calf steers since veal is up and pork down. Farmers know about this stuff. Pork up, veal down, we go back to bacon. Says this HBS part time Wisconsin farmer.

        On a different note, my grandfather was Slovak. Loved the outdoors– hunting, fishing, mushrooming. I carry on his traditions to this day. One of his favorite evening campfire ‘snacks’ was ouhorki. (Probably spelled wrong). 2inch by two inch unsalted pork belly slab. Deeply scored toward skin in 1/4 inch ‘columns’ . Take a peeled onion, stick it on a spit (slender long stick). stick the scored pork belly on the spit tip, skewered just under the skin so it holds fast. Now roast the two over the campfire slowly turning until the scored bacon column bits are as crispy as you like. The fat naturally drips down to help cook the onion if you hold the stick right. Hint trick. No Slovak is stupid enough to hold the stick at all except to turn occaisionally. Use a grounded Y branch plus a piece of firewood over the grounded stick end. When done, plate and eat both with big chunks of dark bread. And maybe some homemade wine or vodka. Best part is the crispy roast pork skin eaten last, like South Carolina BBQ. Old country country folks knew a thing or three about surviving without electricity. Grandpa said this was only a late fall/ winter hunt treat. Onions for vitamin C and such, pork fat for heat calories, bread for carbs, pork meat for protein. Vodka to make sure the stream water was ‘pure’. A pre grid Slovak winter granola bar with Dasani.

      • With the modern marketing of hams, that is what I miss the most! The skin! Cooked to a crisp, with just a touch of meat and fat to give it flavor left attached.

        You cannot find hams with the skin any longer. A shame. That was always the best part of the ham. You made me hungry Ristvan!

      • Their dough, sauce and pizza in general sucks. I survived my kids “pizza” days at school which Little Caesars always catered (yes, it was before Michelle).

      • Easier to just go buy a big barrel of Utz’s fried pork rinds at Sam’s Club.
        On the plus side…beef is cheaper than it has been in years!

  18. I am prepped for this. The worse of it on the east coast will be the violence in the first two weeks, and most of that will be over, except for the successful Gov and LE warlords, with 95+ percent dead in 2 months (dysentery and starvation). I’m hoping the warlords will decide to move on to softer targets when they get to my house.

    • I don’t prep per se. I own a medium large Wisconsin dairy farm instead. 260 gorgeous acres (about 160 are 3 forest woodlots), two barns, three operational water wells ( plus one year round flowing spring). Managed together with another 200 plus 160 contiguous.
      Only issue is getting there (multiple contingencies depending on from where, and timing). Once there, can heat with firewood and cook on wood stove if necessary. We have always ~ 800 gallons diesel and ~80 gallons gas in the equipment shed for tractor, snomobiles, chain saws, 4 wheelers…. That’s just how fam fuel gets delivered to farms in big infrequent truckloads.
      Did in 1999 dig a hand pumped cased well, first aquifer only 60 feet, close to the farmhouse. Other wells are all cased second aquifer about 120 feet for better water quality. Would suffice nicely in a prolonged pinch. Pails to flush toilets, oversized septic with gravity drainage, No electricity problem. Veg garden is 300 feet by 50 feet. We never can ‘can’ all the produce even tho have tools, jars, and experience. Blanche and freeze, then give away. Or, we dry down like with morel mushrooms. Only $80/lb. We harvest shopping bags full when hit the seasonal timing right in just a weekend.. Heck, one year we were overrun by a small pumpkin patch and had to take 18 big pumpkins home to give away. No way to cook and freeze that much pumpkin. Amazing what manure as fertilizer will do in decent soil. Oh, and I reload many rifle/pistol/shotgun calibers since 40 years as a competition shooter, plus have 3 BP rifles of caliber from 0.45 to 0.56, (plus 3 bp revolvers caliber 0.35-0.45), lots of hand cast balls plus lots of old battery lead to cast more, and lots of Pyrodex and percussion caps to power same. Well, all that might still qualify me as a prepper of sorts. Or just an old fashioned throwback. Or an old geezer (my kids thoughts except when they come hunting, shrooming, or blanche/freezing veggies or taking home the farm’s dried fruits, wild honey and fresh pork, veal, beef.)

      • Of course in today’s world you can add a few solar panels with marine batteries to power your well pumps.

      • That sounds awesome, hopefully far enough away from Milwaukee or Madison where the bleeding heart liberals will think that your stuff is actually their stuff. Lead helps.

  19. Solar coronal mass ejections! That sounds really scary. We’ll all get pregnant with alien mutant babies who will destroy us with solar laser beams from their eyes.

    We’re doomed.

    • When I posted on FB a few years back that a large Earth directed CME was coming, and people with no science background asked what that meant.
      I told them that, in plain language, a piece of the Sun had broken off and was going to hit the Earth…they all first did not believe it, then freaked all the way out when I showed them that this was indeed more or less what was happening.
      To the average science illiterate, which is most people, “a piece of the Sun will hit the Earth” is much scarier sounding than “Earth directed CME”.
      Plain language man, plain language.
      Then again, describing the process of slaughtering, rendering, butchering, and cooking up some meat sounds pretty bad in everyday plain language.
      We use euphemisms to make everything sound nice and tidy.

      • I never did get around to mentioning that the piece of the Sun was moving at a speed that would cause a BB to smash an army tank into rubble, if not vaporize it outright.

  20. Protective devices on the grid can operate within a couple of cycles to open the grid minimising damage. East West lines are affected more than north south lines. Grid operators have been taking measures to protect the grid from this type of event. Solar events similar but smaller happen a few times a year. Because of outages caused by solar flares in the past protection has been upgraded. There will be outages but damage should be minimized enabling reenergizing of the affected grid.

  21. The biggest problem with this would be refrigerators, food processing equipment, and, electrical lighting and electrical equipment on farms, being hit by electrical overstress. That is where the starvation would really kick in.

    • BTW – major data and telco infrastructure typically has good surge protection at the grid interface.

  22. I don’t think it is quite the big deal it so far as people being able to prepare for such a event if given 24-36 hours notice. Any one who lives in areas were power can go out due to storms- hurricanes etc knows the drill;
    drinking water, toilet water bathing/cleaning water. Fuel for cooking/ boiling water. All know the lists.

    No, the problem lays with the fact that energy providers may not have spare transformers and other vital replacement parts to repair the grid.

    Most of the fix’s are simple, just stock pile enough of what is needed to get production facilities going again.

    Note people have had storms knock out power for weeks at a time. The big thing will be to quickly re-establish communications within the country, being able to talk with people and family will comfort people.

    So yes we would need to have back up satellites ready for launch and be able to launch them.

    Last there will be groups and countries who will try to take advantage of the situation, I leave that to your imagination.


    • The first effects arrive in 9 minutes.
      These may knock out the comms satellites.
      The news media is dependent on Satellites.
      You may not even know that the following effects are coming due to lack of news.
      The secondary effects which allegedly damage the power systems come later.

      NASA constantly monitor the Sun for storms. They hopefully have enough time to turn the critical systems and solar panels away from direct line of sight of the sun before the first potentially damaging waves arrive.

  23. They haven’t figured how to monetize a CME event because there is nothing on Earth to visualize the events. And the polar bears just refuse to pose for any more photos!


    Can God’s control over climate and weather be modified, or amended by made-made CO2 emissions? Is it possible to void the miracles of God by the actions of man-made CO2 emissions?

    Genesis 7:12 The rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. (NASB)

    Could controlling man-made CO2 emissions have prevented forty days of rain and the great flood? Of course not.

    Jonah 4:8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (NASB)

    Would it have been possible for Jonah to be spared the scorching wind if men had controlled their man-made CO2 emissions? Certainly not.

    Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.”(NASB)

    Can restricting man-made CO2 emissions determine cold, heat, the temperature in summer and winter. Can man-made CO2 emissions control the seasons. No it cannot.

    If men who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ believe that man-made CO2 emissions can control weather, climate, and seasons, then, why would anyone look to them for spiritual guidance concerning salvation?

    Psalms 148:8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; (NASB)

    This fulfills God’s word, what does man-made CO2 fulfill?

    Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them , and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (NASB)

    If men would have restricted their CO2 emission, could they have prevented God from destroying Job’s sheep, and servants? No, of course not.

    2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (NASB)

    No amount of man-made CO2 modifications, can cause or prevent the earth from be burned up.

    Revelations 20:14-15 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Men need to stop worrying about the false doctrine of man-made global warming and start being concerned about the warming in the lake of fire.

    How to get your name written in the book of life.
    1. Faith: John 3:16
    2. Confession: Romans 10:9
    3. Repentance: Acts 3:19
    4. Immersion in Water: Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38


  25. A single north Korean pancake style hydrogen enhanced atomic bomb, based on 1950s soviet technology, exploded at height over Canada would expose the continental US to an EMP of about 10 thousand volts per foot. The resulting damage could result in the US and north Korea having roughly similar economies.

    • Which is why that can never be allowed. My late father was a B-29 pilot for years. He used to volunteer at Udvar-Hazy museum. Enola Gay. Folks would ask two questions: how did crew get in. He showed them, through the front wheelwell ladder, which meant they were not coming out as easily. Second, would he have dropped the bomb. To which he always replied, my friend Judd Tibbits did, it ended a war saving many American lives, and as we have them perhaps we should use them more often in defense of America.
      Needless to say, the Smithsonian did not employ him as an authentic vet for much longer. He loved that PC outcome. In many ways. Now rests at Arlington with the nations highest non-combat neck order for post combat military contributions. Awarded the day he retired at the Pentagon. I was there.

    • No, “feed berple”, probably not, as their calculations of the EMP are off.

      EMP is another ‘phenom’ not unlike CAGW where the hypothesis in its totality remains untested, the exact ‘formulation’ and effects unverified.

      See the Rabinowitz (of EPRI note) paper on this effect, or lack thereof.

  26. No wonder so many anxiety pills are consumed by modern society. We’ve been bombarded by so much Malthusian, end of the world hysteresis (attempt at pun) that worry warts are now a pandemic. I’m sorry, but with CAGW, killer bees (although, thankfully now on the endangered species list from toxic CO2 rise), low sperm counts from GMO foods, droughts caused by flatulent cattle and vegetarians, immunity caused by immunization, premature deaths caused by safe injection sites, brain damage from cell phones, powerlines and aluminum cooking pots, prescription drugs, fluorine and fracking fluids in drinking water, bad colesteral, pesticides, super bugs, the threat of defending safe places at unidiversities ……. colonial mass ejections will just have to get in line.

    • I thought the sperm count thing was due to tighty-whities and pointy bicycle seats, and was cured by the switch to boxer briefs and wider seats?
      And the Killer Bees? My recollection is that they were vanquished by the British Bulldogs, although I could be wrong and it was really Brutus Beefcake and Rowdy Roddy Piper, although the contributions of George “The Animal” Steel and Randy savage cannot be ruled out either.
      As for the rest of that stuff…well, I never wanted to live forever anyways.
      Oh…wait…yes I did!

  27. Any railroad locomotive engineers, or EE’s with GE, out there? How easy (or hard) would it be to severely disable a modern GE ES44AC locomotive? Or a modern Siemens DC electric in commute service?
    I think all forms of transportation (air, rail, tug/barge, pipelines) take a beating from a hard hit just because of the huge reliance on electronic internal systems. Throw in the support systems like ATC, the new Positive Train Control, and the locks on large rivers, anything that can be produced and loaded for transport in an unaffected area will have a hard time moving.

    Feel free to dissuade me of that thought.

  28. I have the utmost belief the climate scientist will, once reading this paper, find a way to link increased CO2 to the destruction that would be caused by a CME.

  29. “Further, such high-value assets are not necessarily easy to procure and replace in the short term.”

    What this translates to is that some HV transformers are essentially custom-made. One doesn’t just go to a warehouse and take one off the shelf and shuttle it out to one that needs to be replaced. Repair crews will have to take enough fuel with them for the trucks to get there and back. Without electricity, there will be no sales of gasoline or diesel fuel along the way. The utility companies will be on their own, needing backup generators to fuel their repair trucks, IF they have enough fuel on hand to re-fuel the returning repair trucks — and provide fuel to the repairmen that might want to go home and check on their families. That is assuming that the electronics in their cars haven’t been fried because the hoods of the cars have been replaced with plastic to save weight and there is no longer a Faraday shield in place. How do you build new transformers when there is no electricity for the plants to use? Where do you get food when the store delivery trucks can’t buy gas? How do you get perishables delivered when there is no refrigeration? If the grid goes down, things will get very ugly for those who have very little food in the house/apartment and little or no gas in their gas tanks. Even the military will have problems feeding their soldiers and putting gas in the tanks of their trucks. Only the Amish and Mormons will do well, if they aren’t overrun by hoards fleeing the cities on foot. It isn’t about dollars, it is about surviving!

  30. And earth, strapped like a suicide bomber with 440 nuclear plants, many of which will not successfully shutdown and go into meltdown mode, will not fare well. In fact it will be the end of the end game. Imagine 50 Fukushima’s going off all at once.

    Game over

    Some have estimated that the US grid could be substantially hardened for about $250M, my estimate is that it would be around $3B. And yet our 3 pound monkey brain does not spend this money.

    For reference, US Broker Bankers get annual BONUSES around $100B. So for the price of 1.5 weeks of Banker BONUSES we could harder our grid and prevent a worldwide tragedy. But we fiddle.

    • Folks in the “green sector” could be diverted to the task, thereby retaining employment for the victims of paradigm shift.

    • stock,
      What evidence do you have for claiming that “many” of the nuclear plants will not shut down successfully. Can you cite any historical statistics? And why would they go into meltdown mode? Unlike Fukushima, which was physically damaged by the tsunami, there is no reason to believe the CME would physically damage the structure.

      • It is called station blackout. The worst nightmare for nuke plants. They don’t properly test backup system under load and powering the things they are supposed to power. But this is irrelevant. Because a large enough CME will fry all the electronics, meaning none of the systems will work.

        Pilgrim nuke near Boston had deposit buildup on its primary substation short out and lost all outside power. A series of failures of their “defense in depth” system cascaded. They were one step away from a forced and large radiation release to the Boston area. This is while the operators were living normal lives.

        The situation in a hemisphere wide blackout with fried electronics would be quite different, quite worse.

    • These things are designed to survive nearby nuke strikes.
      They won’t even notice a CME.

      I love the way you decide that we need to spend other people’s money to solve these problems.

  31. My nightmare is if a very large CME hit earth during a geomagnetic pole reversal. Would not all life on surface get microwaved. A global extinction event surely. I’m surprised that this conjunction of events has not been considered, at least to my knowledge. Odds are slim but age of earth is great.

    • Even during a reversal, the magnetic field never goes to zero.
      Even if the field did go to zero, the atmosphere is still there to block most of it.

      • True it doesn’t go to zero but it does drop to 10% or less. The big unknown is “how long” it takes for the reversal to occur. Is it 1 hour or one year? An important detail when calculating the risk of a Harrington-size CME occurring during a mag pole reversal.

        I wish some of the astrophysics-types that visit this board would provide a little insight. It could be responsible for some of the mega-extinctions that have occurred in the past but left no trace as to their cause. Even the relatively recent extinction of North American mega-fauna of 12K years ago is poorly understood.

  32. Dr. S., if a large CME event requires a large sunspot, what are the solar surface preconditions that make larger sunspots?

    What about 2 or 3 medium CME’s striking earth’s magnetic field in a 36 hour period? Wouldn’t they sufficiently weaken the field by the arrival time of a 3rd, to cause substantial damages too, as the earth’s magnetic field wouldn’t have had enough time to recuperate between hits?

    good night

    • All a CME does is push the magnetic field around a bit.
      Once the CME passes the magnetic field returns to normal immediately.

      • Rice university used to have a visual of a major event over on their site. Showed earths magnetic pause pushed halfway across the planet. That was one hell of a push.

        “””The final stage of the storm is the recovery phase, during which time H returns to its pre-storm level.
        This phase generally appears in two parts:
        A rapid recovery in which H recovers about halfway to its former level in a time of 6-12 hours; and a slow
        recovery immediately following this, during which H completes its return in a time of 1-5 days.
        Geomagnetic storms have been reviewed in detail by many authors, including Ferraro and Parker (1966)
        Bartels and Chapman (1940) and Akasofu (1966).”””

        Rice university used to have a visual of a major event over on their site. Showed earths magnetic pause pushed halfway across the planet. That was one hell of a push.

        Current Magnetopause Standoff

    • Based on the picture, we’ve got nothing to worry about since every living thing on the earth died long before the oceans boiled away.

  33. From what I’ve read, it would “only” cost about $2 billion to ameliorate most of the damage to the US electrical grid system from a solar or nuclear EMP event.

    This seems like a very small expense (btw, I hate it when politicians call spending “investments”) to protect against an inevitable solar EMP event, especially given the potential economic damage could be in the $trillions if the grid remains unprotected.

    BTW, here is an interesting list of wasteful federal spending:

    $2 billion is a rounding error of real government waste, fraud and abuse.

    • Exactly Samurai, my calc is $3B, but I am a professional engineer, contractor, and estimator, I hate being low on a bid.

      It is chump change. Also, my calculations indicate that there is about a 1% chance per year of a Carrington size event, and certainly larger event, aka 775AD have occurred. However, in the next few decades, the risk is higher because we are entering/in a quiet sun mode.

      Counter-intuitively, times of quiet sun are also the highest risk for large CME.

  34. Induced voltage into the grid can be minimised by simple open circuiting the grid lines. All of them. Circuit breakers throughout the grid need to be opened in times of crisis. The question is what politician would have the balls to turn the power off? With a couple of hours notice of a hit I doubt if you would have got through to the appropriate minister, and if you did it would need to go to a committee. Of course you could be sensible like me and have all your refrigeration and communication off grid. I have my collection of shells for trading.

      • Fukushima area thyroid cancer up 1200%, but don’t worry folks, no need to evacuate, move along and let the nuclear industry do whatever it wants, even better, give them handouts and loosen up the protections like EPA did in the last days of Obama

  35. Most large substations have one spare transformer on site so there might be a limited supply available. However long transmission lines would be subject to overvoltage. This could damage insulators and bring overhead lines to the ground.

  36. 1. Introduction

    Research in this paper has been produced by a similar team that originally developed the Helios Solar Storm Scenario [Oughton et al., 2016]—the first space weather stress test for

    the global insurance industry.

    Ultimately, these are different pieces of work. Helios purposefully explored the sensitivity of economic loss due to different temporal restoration periods, in order to provide a tool for stressing the portfolio

    exposure of global insurance companies.

    Helios is not a prediction but a hypothetical range of scenarios to enable miti- gation of

    space weather risks in the insurance industry.

    On the other hand, this paper focuses purely on the daily direct and indirect economic consequences of how an extreme space weather event may affect U.S. domestic production, as well as other nations via supply chain linkages, based on different blackout zones.

    4. Conclusions

    This paper explored.


  37. Bad for solar and Windelecs,

    Good for Diesels:

    lsvalgaard on February 1, 2017 at 10:34 am

    But scenarios where high voltge transformers are fried and it takes a year to replace them are IMO avoidable.

    The issue here is to what degree we can predict what will happen. Just turning off the power grid has an large cost and if nothing happens who will pick up that cost?
    The good news: we are getting better at predicting the effects and monitoring the sun

    [implied request: send more money].

  38. We’ve already lived through one of the CME scenarios circa 1951. Only difference, between then and now, is the wisdom of Klaatu and his trusted robot Gort.
    Repeat after me when the CME is imminent: Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!
    In the mean time, while we await the CME, fire up those CO2 belching engines to keep our planet well fed!!

  39. Is this website becoming alarmist?

    Yesterday the pole flip was going to cause chaos, now its CMEs…

    alarmism, definitely alarmism…

    • I think it’s more a subtle hint to all those climate scientists (sic) currently drying their eyes at their potential redundancy to go away and do something useful.

    • Griff, you should stop reading your own posts. Both subjects are being discussed, and the facts are being presented. That is called science. The only one doing the Chicken little is you.

      CMEs happen. Poles flip. And man can do nothing to stop them. Seems that lesson can be used on other alarmist memes as well.

    • You want alarmism….. what if a pole flip and CME happened at the same time! We don’t really know how long a mag pole-flip lasts…. so it’s difficult to assess the risk. Mass extinction is likely.

    • No, Grift, it’s an effort to establish perspective. Not that there was any possibility you’d jump to the OBVIOUS conclusion.

  40. This whole thread is a colonal mass ejection of alarmism. What is going on, or, WUWT? It will end up because of CO2. The climateers are scrambling for more scary stuff as the funding ax descends.

    • Oh its just a “conspiracy”, sheesh it is a real risk, probably a world ending risk, with a certain percentage of nuke plants not shutting down properly and melting down. 10% of 440 nuke plants is 44 meltdowns.

      Survivable? Ask the Pacific how its doing

  41. March 1989: Hydro-Quebec’s power grid is completely shut down by a ~0.5 x Carrington event, resulting in ~6 million folks w/out power for ~9hrs (a few spots were out for a few days). The cost in repairs was ~C$10,000000 to H-Q’s equipment, & no casualties were blamed on either the CME or resulting blackout.

    January 1998: Hydro-Quebec’s grid suffers multiple failures due to widespread damage & destruction of their grid due to ice storms. At the height of the outage ~3 to 4 million are without power, 90% of those affected see the power off for ~7 days, and the outage was not fully ended for more than a month. Some 35 people died from the storm & resulting loss of heat in the middle of winter, and almost a thousand were treated at area emergency rooms. H-Q’s equipment was not fully repaired until March of that year, at a cost of ~C$800,000,000.

    When assessing risk, we must examine not only the possible damage, but also the likelihood of the event. In addition, it’s helpful to consider whether such events have happened before, and if so, how they were/would be dealt if they do occur again. My impression is that ice storms in the Canadian winter are far more likely than Carrington-scale solar events to do major damage to our power grids & communications networks, and while both are potentially acute, the ice storms are more likely to present long-term recovery problems.

    As a SATCOM service provider, I have to admit: I’m really not all that concerned about the Sun smashing us back to the 1600s… although I am slightly more concerned about it (very slightly concerned)than I am the possibility of the Kessler Syndrome (not at ALL concerned). Others are welcome to their opinions though, I’m sure.

      • @MarkW — What about what I wrote makes you think I believe that? I’m just comparing “apples to apples.”

    • Smokey, as an expert in energy systems and EMF protection, I wrapped a SATCOM in stainless steel, with wave guides and RF filters, and the entire backup power systems inside the shield.

      When we did the final cutover, it literally required an approval of congress. You can imagine the expense.

      “They” know the impact on critical infrastructure.

  42. It seems the goverment is trying to do something about EMP but they are not doing nearly enough.

    Gingrich warns U.S. of ‘very dangerous’ Obama directive

    “The day before President Trump was inaugurated, a Democrat-controlled commission set new standards to protect America’s life-sustaining electric grid that will leave the U.S. vulnerable to a devastating electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack from a hostile nation such as North Korea or Iran.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s directive, issued Jan. 19, will protect the nation only from an EMP caused by solar activities. . .”

    “Former Ambassador Henry Cooper – who was President Ronald Reagan’s chief representative in the “Star Wars” initiative negotiations with the Soviet Union and SDI director under President George H.W. Bush – agreed that should Trump repeal the directive immediately and appoint new FERC commissioners “who will represent him by putting America first — not the electric power industry.”

    Cooper said in a commentary for Family Security Matters “the shortsighted FERC rule means that when the ‘powers that be’ ever get around to addressing the more threatening problem, they will have to start all over again in upgrading whatever they do in response to the less threatening threat.”

    “The ‘manmade’ EMP threat includes a much higher amplitude low frequency component and contains high frequency components that are not part of the ‘natural’ EMP threat,” he said.

    Cooper explained that protecting the grid from the manmade EMP threat also protects it from the natural EMP threat, but the converse is not true.”

    end excerpts

    • Gingrich is FOS; a ‘paid’ lackey and spokesman on issues he has no scientific grasp off.

      “Renowned Physicists Cast Doubt on Gingrich’s Far-Fetched Scenario about EMP weapons”


      (3) How Congress gouged out its own eyes on science issues

      In the mid-1990s, when Gingrich was Speaker of the House, Congress dismantled its Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a highly professional and objective organization that advised Congress on complex scientific and technical issues. Republican Roger Herdman, a medical doctor who was OTA’s last director, was quoted by journalist Chris Mooney in the September / October 2005 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as saying, “There are those who said the Speaker [Gingrich] didn’t want an internal congressional voice that had views on science and technology that might differ from his.”

  43. A major CME hitting the Earth in the near term in the 21st century would create a very valuable database for planning future protection and post-CME repair contingencies. Before that, the cost effectiveness of mitigating against the next one is hard to calculate given the next might be in the 21st century, or it might be in the 22nd century or etc, etc . . . .

    Contingency repair plans to use after a major CME might be more cost effective that all encompassing measures preventing damage to electrical/electronic systems.


  44. Could anything really be more scaring than Climate Change?
    Maybe the climateers have spotted some signs on the wall, and now are testing out other theories to keep the scare alive. From time to time you will also hear something of meteors.
    They have given up on peak oil, coal etc, because then you could not increase the CO2 content to catastrophic level.

  45. Several things here.
    1. The cost to rebuild a large blast furnace in 1997 dollars (which is the last time I did one) was 1.2 billion us bucks. Time to do this is 4 to 8 months. Not a trivial task because anytime the burden is dropped there is a lot of damage from thousands of tons of molten iron. Scada systems for power stations and the electric grid are accessible from the internet, but there are lots of hoops to jump through do do that. Again, not a trivial task.
    2. Unless the Norks have much bigger bombs than anybody else the EMP effects would be fairly localized.
    I mean you could take out Washington DC (Please!!!) and some of the surrounding area but not much else. I doubt the effects would go as far as say Richmond or Philthydelphia.

    The best thing would be to consult Maxwell and see what his assessment is.

  46. This is probably a bit overstated. A Carrington event would be really bad for primitive systems like we had in the 1950s, but today’s more flexible systems would probably fail relatively gracefully, with few key components damaged and most replaceable within days. There would be serious problems, but the power would be back on within days for 90% of the US population.

  47. which had it occurred today, would plunge our society into darkness and chaos as our sensitive electronics, networks, and power systems fail world-wide.

    AS I’ve written before, this is unfounded and un-based BULLSHIT.

    It is a waste of time anymore countering this kind of tripe … let those who enjoy an atmosphere of fear and trepidation, those few but vocal ‘Lemmings’ and Luddites who can’t find a reason to exist without a bogey man to ‘shadow box’ with, presumably hiding just out of sight beyond the back door …

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