More worrying than global warming – report on ‘extreme space weather’ shows risks to Earth

Extreme space weather has a global footprint and the potential to damage critical infrastructure on the ground and in space. A new report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) calls for bridging knowledge gaps and for better coordination at EU level to reduce the potential impact of space weather events.

The sun shapes the space environment around the Earth. This so-called space weather can affect space assets but also critical infrastructure on the ground, potentially causing service disruptions or infrastructure failures. Numerous space weather events affecting the power grid, aviation, communication, and navigation systems have already been documented.

The impact of severe space weather can cross national borders, which means that a crisis in one country can affect the infrastructure in the neighbouring countries. This raises concerns due to the increasing reliance of society on the services that these infrastructures provide.

New report identifies knowledge gaps

The JRC has investigated the impacts of space weather on critical infrastructure in the EU. A new report identifies the gaps in reducing risks linked to space weather and makes recommendations for policy, industry and science on how to close these gaps.

The report summarises the results of a summit organised in partnership with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the UK Met Office, with the support of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in November 2016. Representatives from European infrastructure operators, insurance, academia, ESA, and European and US government agencies attended the event.

Interdependencies and crisis response

The potential failure of critical infrastructures during extreme space weather can lead to cascading effects impacting other sectors.

New methodologies and tools, as well as a multi-risk governance approach are needed to assess these interdependencies and to enable the coordination of the many different actors that often manage risks in isolation from one other.

A pan-European vulnerability assessment of the power grid should be carried out to identify critical issues and transboundary effects in case of extreme space weather. Infrastructure operators should also assess whether their systems could be indirectly vulnerable to space weather, for instance due to dependencies on timing and positioning information provided by the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

Better communication between science and industry is also needed to provide relevant and reliable information to operators for decision making.

Space weather forecasting

Early warning and preparedness are essential for limiting the effects of space-weather impacts.

In Europe and the USA, 24/7 space-weather forecasting capabilities are available to support the early warning of government and industry. However, it is important that the consistency of forecasts from different service providers are ensured.

There is a need to enhance forecasting capabilities for regional or local forecasts on the severity and duration of extreme space weather to ensure appropriate response from local operators.

Currently, geomagnetic storm forecasting is hampered by the limited understanding of the magnetic field orientation of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) before they hit the Earth, and there are still significant knowledge gaps in physical and impact modelling, which affect the early-warning capabilities and preparedness in industry.

The role of the EU

In the EU, the European Programme on Critical Infrastructure Protection provides a policy background for critical infrastructure protection, while the EU disaster risk management policy covers prevention, preparedness and response for all types of disasters.

The Union Civil Protection Mechanism requires EU Member States to prepare a national risk assessment and list the priority risks they are facing. Six countries have included space weather in their risk assessment.

The participants of the summit indicated that there is a need for for improving coordination between the different space weather actors and recommended the establishment of a strategic European decision-making capability to coordinate space-weather risk mitigation and response at pan-European level.

They also advised that the roles and responsibilities of the key players in Europe should be better defined and suggested that coordinated strategic investments for improving the scientific know-how in this area could be explored.

Background

Different types of solar activity can impact the operations of critical infrastructures: Solar flares trigger radio blackouts and affect radar, ground- and space-based communications, as well as the GPS network. Solar radiation storms are a threat to satellite operations, aviation and space flights. Geomagnetic storms, caused by the ejection of magnetised solar plasma which interacts with Earth’s magnetosphere, affect satellite, GPS, aviation, rail transport and power-grid operations.

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JRC Report: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC104231/space_weather_cover%2breport_final.pdf

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173 thoughts on “More worrying than global warming – report on ‘extreme space weather’ shows risks to Earth

  1. “The impact of severe space weather can cross national borders, which means that a crisis in one country can affect the infrastructure in the neighbouring countries. ”

    More likely, the same solar activity that causes a problem in Country A will affect everybody on the globe. Unless you’re talking about a problem where Country A is providing all of the electricity/phone service/technology for their neighbors, and those parasite neighbors are affected by Country A’s woes.

    • Ironically, one solar flare could take out all the roof top solar that greens have has us all paying over the odds prices for, for that last 20 year.

      • Alastair both, solar panels need transformers ( smaller scale but they would be fried). Although would be easier to protect. Not an expert but did look into the effect of EMPs. Protection could be done by grounding sort of like a Faraday cage.

      • Solar cells are whacking great big rectifier diodes.

        The possibility of a solar flare destroying a solar cell on earth is negligible. A direct hit by a meteorite that happened to be steered by the solar wind to a correct intercept orbit to crash on your roof, would likely damage your roof as well as the solar cell.

        And why isn’t whatever transformer you have inside a metal box. ??

        The nonsense that wafts around the internet, in the guise of science, is mind boggling.
        G

      • george e. smith @ 4:44

        Ah yes, but you will no doubt remember the Ellerslie (Auckland) meteorite in 2004 that came through the Archers’ roof…only a few km from the One tree Hill Observatory…any solar panels they might have had would have been toast.

        http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/video/4654/the-ellerslie-meteorite

        But I agree…a good CME would be unlikely to do much damage to the solar cells themselves. Much more likely to fry the associated electronics and circuit boards…so probably no more power for a (long) while.

        And, as you say @ 4:52, probably a good idea for us all to keep a few boxes of ammo tucked away somewhere safe for a rainy (or solar stormy) day! Food and water could get mighty short for some folks after a few weeks/months waiting for new transformers from China.

      • Satellites’ electronics with no magnetic field protection may affected by strong radiation, on the Earth surface it is a different, the secondary effect of the electromagnetic induction. Only long metallic objects such as electric power and telephone lines (including transatlantic sea floor cables, not optical fibre itself but the steel wire reinforcing) may be damaged by high voltage impulses. Transformers and other electrical devices attached to the electric grid are damaged indirectly.
        Faraday cage is no protection for the attached devices, if warned physically disconnect from the grid (unplug) simply switching off is no protection. Railway tracks, oil and gas pipelines due to the large cross-section and good earthing might be ok.

      • Solar panels and damage: if the incoming EMP is 50,000 volts per metre the damage wrought to the connections in PV panels from power coming through the wires is large. If one cell shorts, the other are lost unless the damaged section an be isolated.

        Shielded electronic will be damaged by the few million volts coming down the wires. Your cell phone in a metal box, not so much. It will still work and you can charge it with the remnants of your PV panel, but there won’t be any network. This will allow you to document the subsequent calamity as it unfolds.

      • If we went with LIFTR, liquid salt thorium reactors, that could be autonomous, independent of human management, and serve individual buildings or same areas, we could eliminate the energy grid, decentralize energy and, with hardened, Faraday-cage construction they would be immune to most solar interference events.

        We also could recycle virtually of of the copper and iron that makes up out huge, extensive power grid and in the process remove a huge footprint high voltage power towers impose on the environment.

      • “”””…..
        Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek

        March 25, 2017 at 7:47 am

        Solar panels and damage: if the incoming EMP is 50,000 volts per metre the damage wrought to the connections in PV panels from power coming through the wires is large. …..”””””

        Well 5 megavolts per meter would do even more damage.

        But do not worry !

        I just made up that number; there’s no evidence the sun would cause such a field.

        So WHERE did YOU get your 50,000 V/m electric field strength from solar charged particles hitting the earth atmosphere. ??

        G

      • I would be more worried about meteorites taking out one of those thorium/and or any other nuclear tailings processing dams.

      • @ Higley 7. That would be especially true if we could make LFTRs the size they were seeking to design — as a power plant for a large bomber aircraft. If we could get them anything like that size, huge grids would not be necessary. And also commercial shipping and aircraft transportation would be immediately changed and probably trains as well. Getting them down to truck/car size might be a problem but we could make carbon based fuels from CO2 in the air.

    • higley7 …..so i guess you would want to “Faraday cage’ the power lines exiting the mythical thorium power source as well??

      • Um, no, he specified a hope for reactors powering individual buildings, or maybe local neighborhoods, so there would not be those “long” pieces of metal, the wires of the existing grid.

  2. The threats that EMP and other space events can pose to our rather delicate electromagnetic structure has been well known for years and has been the subject of several survivalist novels. Of course we should better define the roles and responsibilities of those involved and better coordinate possible responses.

    The paper appears to be reasonably balanced and hopefully will not be used as a basis for creating another crisis atmosphere.

    • Well its an EU paper telling us how good the EU is at warning us about crises that haven’t happened yet as opposed to its lamentable record in dealing with crises that are happening, like impending economic collapse and out of control migration, and the odd suicide terrorist here and there.

    • So just when did any such happenstance occur; well in recorded history of the industrial era ??

      I like your science fiction novel explanation better.

      G

  3. So the UK Met Office and NOAA are involved. This is probably just a very rare coincidence coming at a time when clamoring for more government funding support of Earth anthropogenic climate change research has become a bit of a hard sell in the absence of visible benefits from the billions already spent. I would be happy to see appropriate relevant investigation of space weather, but perhaps we should direct those funds to the investigators who told the truth, admitted uncertainties and made accurate predictions about Earth climate.

    • A nice aspiration, but once agencies etc are set up to look into this issue, then they will proliferate and behave in a way that ensures their survival. This is one of the laws of bureaucratic behaviour. This paper is less about the science than the associated ‘governance’ issues. This alone should sound a warning bell!

  4. Would this be the “union” called the “E. U.” ?
    That Taxation Union whose decisions cannot be altered by ANY of it’s so-called members of parliament (“parliament” meaning “talk but don’t interfere: we’ll spend all your money and con you into paying more and more”).

    Hogwash, fiddlesticks. This is all smoke and mirrors and it stinks.

  5. Extreme geomagnetic storms at Kp=9 (G5) on average happen on about 4 days per sunspot cycle (could be 2×2 subsequent days), can generate aurora visible below 50 degree latitude (e.g. visible in Madrid, Miami or Cape Town ). These are important to the satellites operators and the over pole flying aircraft.
    Carrington type events are extremely rare and well outside Kp ( 0 – 9 ) scale.

      • Vuk that event was also directly aimed at Earth large events have happened pointed away from Earth as little as a few years ago and missed.

      • The sun subtends 1/2 deg. of angle, as seen from earth.

        The sun is 100 times the diameter of earth so earth subtends about 18 arc seconds as seen from the sun.

        It hardly knows we are here/

        G

      • Hi Big G
        That might be the case for the higher frequency end radiation. The CME is a cloud of charged particles which spreads to millions of km by time it reaches the earth.

      • Well yes that is true Vuk; but the more it spreads, the better for us.

        The only way those charged particles are going to do much on earth is if they all arrive in one solid chunk and land on my roof.

        G

        EMP is WAY overblown.

    • Vuk,

      Auroral events take place in very rarified atmospheric densities. The residual air pressure is way less than the fill density of neon sign tubes, or fluorescent lamps, and those denser atmospheres are readily ionized by quite low energy charged particles; electrons or protons.

      So the electric fields in the auroral regions are pretty modest, and if you were in the middle of one of those regions in a balloon, you wouldn’t even be aware of any electric fields of note.

      The fact that solar CME s (I think that’s what Dr. S calls them) can create vivid Auroral displays, is NO assurance that they would have much effect at the earth’s condensed phase surfaces.

      Can you just envisage the violent boiling of the ocean surface by energetic fields that can melt railway lines (according to one poster here).

      I say it’s BS.

      G

  6. This could be a truly catastrophic event with the potential to disrupt power supplies, food distribution networks, water and sewage management, financial systems, traffic management etc etc, all of which make extensive use of IT.

    In the absence of rapid back up and recovery, the basics of life would become short/unavailable within 7 days. Within 10/14 days violence and civil unrest would be widespread. If the basic infrastructure is impacted – eg: electricity substations/transformers – full recovery would be measured in years with direct impacts on quality of life and standard of living.

    This is a potential catastrophe for which we must plan and budget accordingly – a real and potentially immediate risk (unlike climate change).

    • The grid is protected against such events. The voltage surge from a Carrington type event is a slow rising event. Much slower and for a single line, much less energy than is in your average lightning strike.
      Yes, circuit breakers across the country would kick in resulting in a nationwide blackout, but the equipment will be fine. It will take a few hours to a few days for remote locations for the power to be restored.
      Beyond that, we will have a day or two warning before it hits. More than enough time to shut down and isolate anything that might be critical and to call all workers back from vacation to work on restoring power when it’s over.

      • Your optimistic opinion on this seems at odds with multiple well documented studies. Do you have any citations to support your opinion?

      • So hunter, if such events have been well documented, perhaps you can cite a reference to just one such well documented study of an event that fried railway lines or electrical power grids (hardware).

        G

      • George,

        An honorable person by now would have apologized for calling my factual statement about H-bomb design fiction.

        You’ve been educated on the subject by people who know whereof we speak, unlike you, yet you still ignore us, after your driveby falsehood.

    • Well I hope you have your bomb shelter well stocked with ammunition.

      Oh ! and have some food in there as well.

      G

    • My limited understanding of such an event is all electrical and electronic devices rendered useless, which would certainly cause civil unrest for those unprepared but to prepare for something like this that might never happen would take dedication and much ridicule.
      Nice to see they have now switched from CAGW to something else , just in case .

      • Well just think of all of the lives that will be saved, from people walking off cliffs, or onto railroad tracks in front of trains.

        A world devoid of functioning finger toys seems like a thing of beauty to me.

        G

    • We have see riots start up within minutes of the power going out.
      And those were regional blackouts.
      if the power should go out across the country, and such riots commenced on a widespread basis, that could be a catastrophe all by itself.

  7. This bit of (to my mind) double-talk is indicative of what I think is the underlying concern of the EU techno-bureaucrats;

    “In Europe and the USA, 24/7 space-weather forecasting capabilities are available to support the early warning of government and industry. However, it is important that the consistency of forecasts from different service providers are ensured.

    There is a need to enhance forecasting capabilities for regional or local forecasts on the severity and duration of extreme space weather to ensure appropriate response from local operators.”

    They are calling for the elimination of any variance from a central (EU) authority’s “forecasting”, but they phrase it in such a way as to make it sound like they mean enhancing the “forecasting capabilities” various forecasters . . Just saying taking it all over sounds so . . totalitarian, ya know ; )

  8. The Solar storm of 1859—known as the Carrington Event—was a powerful geomagnetic solar storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

    Forget severe short term global cooling from some external forcing causing a crop failure in the northern hemisphere causing potential global strife/starvation over 1-2 years. If the 1859 CME were to hit earth tomorrow, the potential lack of cascading failures from satellite orbital decay, internet disruption and power line failure would be an immediate shot to the system that would cause widespread chaos. Depending on the severity of the event, might be a wake up call to earth about how fragile civilization has become. Maybe we need a bit of a wake up call to scare our pants off…

    Just thinking about how challenging it would be to live in a much cooler world makes me think that the little bit of warming we have managed over the last 150 years is a real bonus for civilization to survive anything going wrong, so a boost in CO2 levels of 300 ppmv to 400 ppmv per ice age peak is really an issue about nothing much to see here. History will get the last word on this, and I am confident that future generations will thank us for raising the CO2 emissions to a level that will sustain life as we know it for several more ice ages to come. As for death by cosmic events, well, I guess we pay our money and we takes our chances.

    • Some people need to chill, read up a little about actual technology and relax.
      1) The power grid will not fail. Worst case is a nationwide black out as circuit breakers across the country kick in. Once it’s over, power will be restored, it may take a few hours to a few days depending on how many crews are available.
      2) The internet won’t go down.
      3) While the orbital life of some low flying satellites may be shortened by a few days to weeks. We won’t have satellites crashing down right and left. Satellites in geo-synch orbit won’t be affected at all by atmospheric drag.

      • All those huge transformers that need trucks to move about could potentially be damaged beyond repair. The question to ask is how many replacements exist and how long it may take to make new ones (especially with limited power & transportation), not how many crews are available to replace them.

        The answer is concerning at best. I got this from someone who installs these for a living.

      • MarkW “Some people need to chill, read up a little about actual technology and relax.”
        I suppose the key issue is the severity of the CME event. Luckily, CME’s take a few days at least to arrive at earth, so we would have time to prepare by shutting down the grid for a half day while the storm passed earth. That may save the transformers, but some long power line conductors may fry out from inductance overload. The biggest problem would be the destruction of a lot of complicated circuit boards and electronics. Stuff that makes the internet run. And car/truck computer modules that may not work to operate the vehicle until replaced. GPS satellites would be out of calibration until reset and would use a lot of precious fuel restting themselves back to their proper orbit. Geo Sych sats would be particularly vulnerable to electronic chip frying, mainly because they are out in the open past the Van Allen Radiation belts but all low earth sats, especially the space station with humans aboard would have a lot of radiation to deal with as well. But the astronauts probably could bail back to earth in time. It would not be a pleasant day, week or month after a Carrington type of event today. Good informative article at NatGeo… http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110302-solar-flares-sun-storms-earth-danger-carrington-event-science/

      • A blackout is considered, by most people, a failure.
        And if a blackout occurs due to the failure of a combination of large numbers of small transformers and large, hard-to-replace transformers, it could take a lot more than a few days.
        It is extremely likely that many satellites would be rendered useless, their electronics damaged.
        How hardened are things like medical devices and airplanes?
        What about autos that now depend on a working gps system. How about cell phones.

      • All those huge transformers
        ===============
        These transformers will take years to replace. It may be impossible to build new ones where the power is out. Until they are replaced, the power is out. It could take decades to bring the entire system back on line.

        The worry is not just a solar event. The press has misunderstood what North Korea is building. The press have discounted the PRNK weapon because it is not a 2 step hydrogen bomb. What PRNK is building is a 1 step hydrogen enhanced weapon. This should worry the US, because it is a first strike EMP weapon. Significantly more effective as an EMP weapon than 2 step weapons.

        Detonated at say 50 km altitude over Canada, the PRNK weapon could generate a 50,000 volts/meter EMP pulse over a large area of the continental US, with significant energies extending coast to coast. The resulting damage to electronics and the grid could devastate the US, without any need to land a weapon on US territory.

      • “…This should worry the US, because it is a first strike EMP weapon…” Read up on EMP. The conditions for it to occur are hard to achieve and the area covered is bounded. Chances of pulling it off coupled with the limited impact make it a poor choice of a weapon. The counter strike nuclear deterrent wins.

      • Ferd,

        Yup. The Nork tests have been of essentially a giant “neutron bomb”, ie enhanced radiation warhead. Unlike the little Cold War artillery rounds, meant to kill Soviet tank crews with fast neutron flux without destroying nearby German towns, the new Nork nuke would release neutrons into the ionosphere to induce EMP over the much of the North American continent.

        Soviet propaganda called the “neutron bomb” the “ideal capitalist weapon”, since it “killed people but left property intact”. Russian flaks failed to mention that the people were Red Army armored vehicle crew and soldier passengers and the property was the homes of German civilians. ERWs in any case weren’t bombs but six-inch howitzer projectiles.

        In an H-bomb, the neutrons produced by fusion are used to cause fission in the depleted uranium jacket around the fusion core, which is ignited by a fission assembly. So it’s really a three-stage device, ie fission-fusion-fission. About half the yield typically comes from fission and half from fusion.

      • The West German government was OK with using such low-yield nukes on its own territory to stop invading Soviet and Warsaw Pact armor. The Warsaw Pact fielded over 200,000 armored fighting vehicles in the 1980s. NATO planners knew that our conventional forces couldn’t resist such an avalanche of steel.

      • In response, the Red Army put lead linings on top of its tanks in the Western Strategic Direction, but the effectiveness of this measure in slowing down ERW neutrons was questionable.

    • I think Chimp is talking about a Fiction bomb. As far as I know; there’s NO depleted Uranium in an H-bomb.

      But that’s as far as I know. And NO, I don’t want to know any further than that.

      G

      • An exception is the W88 warhead for the MIRVed Trident D5 SLBM. Since sub-launched missiles are smaller than ICBMs, the USN needed to maximize yield out of a little MIRV warhead, so used U-235 in the jacket, along with a DU layer:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W88

        This combo is called “oralloy”.

      • Sorry, George, but it’s fact, not fiction. Here is a standard ballistic missile warhead:

        The earth-penetrating variant of the variable yield B61 thermonuclear bomb even has a DU bomb casing, in addition to the DU jacket in its physics package.

      • George,

        It appears that as far as you know is far from far enough.

        Also that you don’t know enough to comment on this topic and that you lack the courage and decency to admit that you were wrong and should not have presumed to comment on a subject about which you obviously are so deeply and thoroughly ignorant.

        How dare you cast aspersions on a knowledgeable commentator without even bothering to do the least little bit of research before shooting your ignorant mouth off?

        Last time I ever pay any attention to anything you spew.

        Real humans of honor admit when they were wrong rather than cowering and hiding.

        Shameful.

  9. We knew less about our own seas than we did about the moon. So humanity sent a man to the moon.

    We know less about our planets weather than we do about space weather, but doubtless we’ll send someone out there to study it as well.

    All a bit coincidental really. Trump says NASA are to concentrate on space travel, so the greens get in first and start spreading their terrorism before we even get there.

  10. Here is the ultimate space weather problem, beyond grants and stuff. We already know it isn’t predictable. So grant seeking apps are largely useless. OTH, those apps domshow the waning of CAGW.

  11. File this under large scale stimulus spending opportunities if a certain Party is in the White House at the time. Of course actual space weather damage would only about 5 percent of the final stimulus appropriation but 90 percent of the sales job to get authorization. Think Shovel Ready.

  12. But but… the IPCC assures us that the sun has no effect on the planet to the point that humans overwhelm any other influences combined.

    • Rob, I think you should read the reports. The incident solar radiation is not ignored but is absolutely fundamental to all IPCC conclusions. Nobody assures us that the sun has no effect on the planet.

    • My read was Rob is sarcastically referring to solar activity other than vanilla sunshine.

  13. the EU disaster risk management policy covers prevention, preparedness and response for all types of disasters.

    Apart from the EU itself, of course :)

      • And don’t forget that the euro was tried before in the previous century, and failed for the same reasons it will fail this time. Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it.

  14. Could a Carrington+ event be the “executioner of the bourgeois” that the greens are hoping will save the planet?

  15. Another crisis invented to instigate fear that will be assuaged by trusting the perpetrator to solve it. Just give them your freedom and money and all will be good again.

  16. A real threat is Earth-crossing asteroids. Yet precious little has been done to prepare for that sure and certain danger, which preparation would cost a tiny fraction of the trillions squandered on CACA and “Green” energy projects and lives lost thereby.

  17. So in Europe they are worried about the electrical grid! Gore Blimey! When did they ever give it a thought? I wager it will give up the ghost before the sun has a chance to give it a coup de grace. Now they are looking for ways to boiler plate their puny grid against a star they never paid any attention to before. Now instead of having to protect a few dozens of dynamos, they have to protect a million of them along with the lines. Methinks they want to blame the idiocy of the results of the disastrous carbon dioxide avoidance policy on the sun.

    My thoughts on the outcome 1) Europe isn’t designed to solve this or any other problem. They’re into a new world order run by plutocrats 2) In our new fearful world, the problem by definition is greatly overblown.

    • “So in Europe they are worried about the electrical grid! Gore Blimey! When did they ever give it a thought?”

      Isn’t that the truth!

      The thing most dangerous to the EU electrical grid isn’t a Carrington-type event, but their own energy policies! They need to look a little closer to home for the vulnerabilities in their electrical grid.

  18. I’ve been interested in space weather since in my early involvement in studies and experiments on the effects of the electro-magnetic radiation pulse generated by exo-atmospheric detonation of nuclear weapons in he 1970s. The Soviets at that time had a built-in advantage arising from their older technology – especially thermionic valves. Spacecraft have always had to be engineered to withstand the environment in space and have managed to do so, thus enabling and facilitating the growth of electronic communications. So the problem is not new.

    However, having anything done under the auspices of the EU is likely to be disastrous. It is an appalling institution of unaccountable government seeking power and other people’s money on any and every pretext. There is much to be said for international collaboration on a voluntary basis where executive governments and their agencies are required strictly and openly to account for their expenditure of other people’s money to those very same people. That is simply not the case with the EU.

    So let’s have international collaboration but, please, not managed by the EU – anything would be better.

  19. Oh! Boy! another Fake Science Project that will save the world!
    I think, I will start a foundation to make April 1st “Carrington Event Prevention Day”.
    Please send Money to : Recently Retired Government Climate Workers.

    • Dennis…It is exceedingly disappointing to read some of the comments (such as yours) who so nonchalantly dismiss everything that you don’t fully understand. These types of posts are the ones our critics will use against us in our battle to be taken seriously by the Joe Public in the debate over truthful CAGW deliberations that will now get a chance to be heard. If we just come across as ignorant then we are just shooting ourselves in the foot. Makes me want to ask for a bit better moderation on some of these posts. Unless in case you are just being sarcactic, in which case you should say so.

    • Dennis

      Unlike Ron, I think I understood your sarcasm.

      If we’re going to mandate the “/sarc” tag, there ought to be a “/pedantic” tag as well.

      Geeeez!

      • One should first assume you are reading sarcasm before getting too upset about the words. There’s a lot to be sarcastic about, when it comes to climate change.

        We shouldn’t mandate the sarc/ tag, and most spelling mistakes are typing/proofreading mistakes, not a failure to understand the language, so we should lighten up on the spelling criticisms.

  20. Rather than just react, we need to take action to control space weather so that problems never happen. First we need to figure out how we can control the Sun’s activities and prevent it from causing any problems. I want a government grant to study the problem. I cannot promise that we will come up with any tangable results but we will in one way or another spend the money that is givern us.

    • “Rather than just react, we need to take action to control space weather so that problems never happen. First we need to figure out how we can control the Sun’s activities and prevent it from causing any problems.”

      Sounds expensive. I guess that’s the idea. We need lots of grants to study this problem. :)

  21. We are a very tiny target. Remember you can be a climate guy without even knowing how to use Excel. Any flares shooting out a small amount above or below the sun’s equator will miss earth. Any place the same small distance along the sun’s equator in both direction from the shortest distance point between sun and earth will miss the earth. What are the chances of hitting the earth, assuming flares can exit from anywhere on the surface of the sun?
    =(area of the ‘disc’ of the earth)÷(area of the sun) =125E06/6E12 ~ one chance in 48,000 flares. How many carrington events are there among 48,000 flares. The last to hit earth was1859. Maybe when we are replacing transformers and building néw lines, we could put them in Faraday cages, or stick in large lightning rods near them. First thing to prepare for it is a no brainer-get rid of all the dinky windmills. Their dynamos would be burnt out and would be fire hazards.

    • Any flares shooting out a small amount above or below the sun’s equator will miss earth.
      No, a CME is pretty wide in angular extent, like 40-120 degrees:

      • Thanks Leif, as always, I found your other posting (up thread) and this one educational. I’m a mining engineer and geologist so am an interested neophyte on solar stuff. I have a clue or two on climate, though having studied paleoclimate ~60yrs ago and having done some work on the glacial maximum and glacial Lake Agassiz. I’m getting to be a specialist in alarmist psychology in these modern fearful days, too.

      • Exactly…these things are not bullets, or even a shotgun blast…they are very by the time they reach our neck of the woods.
        Of course, we do not have to worry about the ones that miss Earth, but then again, it only takes one that does.
        Somehow I am unreassured by the dismissals of those who say we have little to worry about. We will not know that until it happens and it is manageable.
        Not a complete list…not meant to be, but some things we know for sure are that these events do happen, that there are no replacement transformers on hand for all that might be wrecked, that it would take a very long time to replace them, that without electricity and transportation supply lines it will take a lot longer than that, that blackouts can quickly lead to widespread chaos and rioting, that our financial and communications and oil refining and transportation and manufacturing networks all depend on electric power…and perhaps most importantly, that experts are often wrong about things that have happened before and more so for things which have not.

  22. This seems to be a permanent replacement for the Y2K problem and also provides work past AGW.

    I suspect that the reasonable precautions taken on the grid and electronics already are enough, although the Japanese thought that 11m sea walls were enough! :-((

    • Vuk, Having traveled the rail line from New castle to London not many years ago, I think. they better rebuild the road bed first. I marvelled at the balancing skill of the young lady who poured the coffee which was a challenge for me to keep in the cup and to drink. I predicted a derailment any day at the time but haven’t heard of such happening.

  23. cnn telling the world

    Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)A former Russian lawmaker and Kremlin critic who fled to Ukraine last year was shot dead Thursday in Kiev — a killing that Ukraine’s President called a “Russian state terrorist act.

    Since Ukraine’s ‘President’ is Ready president made by Makhthaberin Merkel; neither one commanding the money lacking for paying the gas bill for 10 years – Ukraine let open.

    Putin only can hope Ukraine people over time will pay back.

    What’s Putins gain if one of them is shot.

    Time and CCN will tell.

    • Little known is former Vice Pres Biden’s son is is on the board of a Ukrainian Gas company and has other interests there and also that the previous US admin payed a Ukrainian ‘official’ to remove an anti American gov minister and replace him with one of their own choosing. I think the US House Sec Com should widen their investigation.

  24. The problem is CO2 diverts all the resources away from legitimate research. It is the biggest non-war waste in recent history. So much good could be done and real research performed, but instead it is all wasted on a nonsensical misguided political agenda.
    Just How Much Does 1 Degree C Cost?
    https://co2islife.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/just-how-much-does-1-degree-c-cost/
    Climate “Science” on Trial; How Does Ice Melt In Sub-Zero Temperatures?
    https://co2islife.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/climate-science-on-trial-how-does-ice-melt-in-sub-zero-temperatures/
    Climate “Science” on Trial; Did Cosmic Rays End the CA Drought?
    https://co2islife.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/climate-science-on-trial-only-one-side-can-win/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

    • “The problem is CO2 diverts all the resources away from legitimate research.”

      It does have one advantage I can think of: it keeps a lot of true-believing wanna-be scientists busy and prevents them from screwing up other fields of research. And, at least so far, it has kept their version of the Scientific Method (i.e., conjecture –> computer model –> proven theory) from infecting the real sciences. It would be great if we could find a cheaper less invasive way of keeping them busy (e.g., sucking their thumbs and playing ‘switch’) so the resources you mention can be dedicated to legitimate research.

      • Seeing some of these people in handcuffs doing the perp walk will be a heartwarming sight, and that day will be a fine day indeed.

  25. Any report from the EU or UN is bogus. After blowing countless billions on CO2 control, now we must prevent the Sun from going nova.

  26. If I were a betting man, I would put the odds greatly in favor of a man-made nuclear EMP detonated at the right height above Chicago over the odds of the Sun zapping us.

    • The difference is, for the EMP, someone has to make it happen…lots of someones really…and other someones can potentially prevent it from occurring. Nothing will prevent a repeat of the Carrington Event, and it is just a matter of time, really.
      As inevitable as the next direct hit by a cat 5 hurricane, or the next city wrecking earthquake in California…just a matter of time.

  27. From the article: “Currently, geomagnetic storm forecasting is hampered by the limited understanding of the magnetic field orientation of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) before they hit the Earth,”

    I would like to hear more about this aspect.

    • CME has magnetic polarity. If the CME hits the Earth with a leading edge that is polarized north, it opens a breach in the Earth’s magnetic shield and loads the magnetosphere with plasma starting a geomagnetic storm.
      The opposite is true for the CME with leading edge that is polarized south.
      Polarity can be detected only when one of the solar monitoring satellites is hit, but NASA could be devising methods for earlier detection.

      • If the CME hits the Earth with a leading edge that is polarized north, it opens a breach in the Earth’s magnetic shield and loads the magnetosphere with plasma starting a geomagnetic storm.
        Not true. If the field is pointing south the filed connects better with the Earth’s field and feeds energy into the geomagnetic tail, from where it is later released and causing the storm. The Earth’s field is always open to the solar wind.

      • Perhaps you should have a word with the NASA’s people and sort out your differences.

        “For reasons not fully understood, CMEs in even-numbered solar cycles (like 24) tend to hit Earth with a leading edge that is magnetized north. Such a CME should open a breach and load the magnetosphere with plasma just before the storm gets underway. It’s the perfect sequence for a really big event.”
        https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/16dec_giantbreach

      • as they say, they don’t understand it. Partly because it is wrong.
        http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/phenomena/geomagnetic-storms
        “The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.”
        And as I showed half a century ago, the magnetosphere is always open to the solar wind. No ‘breach’ nonsense.

        And this has nothing to do with even/odd cycles.
        You should not believe everything you just pick up from the internet.
        Better listen carefully to what I tell you and learn.

      • Even Wikipedia has it right: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_storm:
        “The solar wind also carries with it the Sun’s magnetic field. This field will have either a North or South orientation. If the solar wind has energetic bursts, contracting and expanding the magnetosphere, or if the solar wind takes a southward polarization, geomagnetic storms can be expected. “

      • Hi doc
        My quote is from NASA
        Your quote is from NOAA
        When it comes to the matters solar I’ll would go with NASA rather than NOAA if there is a conflict.
        After all NASA landed man on the moon, while the NOAA’s man landed at the bottom of the Boulder dam. /sarc

      • You just misunderstand a garbled press release. Listen to me and learn. There is no conflict between NOAA and NASA on this.
        https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News041211-geostorm.html
        “What is a geomagnetic storm?
        The Earth’s magnetosphere is created by our magnetic field and protects us from most of the particles the sun emits. When a CME or high-speed stream arrives at Earth it buffets the magnetosphere. If the arriving solar magnetic field is directed southward it interacts strongly with the oppositely oriented magnetic field of the Earth.”

      • Vuk, anybody who follows spaceweather knows that when the IMF points south, auroras are more likely. Isn’t this all about the fact that magnetic opposites attract, or am I being too simple here?

      • Vuk wouldn’t know, but you are right, it is a bit more complex. When two magnetic fields of opposite directions are pressed together they can change their topology at their interface. That change is called ‘reconnection’ and is the cause of electric fields that can created currents and accelerate charged particles.
        Here is more on this process: http://www.leif.org/EOS/yamada10rmp.pdf

      • NASA’s five THEMIS spacecraft mission is to:
        1. Establish when and where substorms begin
        2. Determine how the individual components of the substorm interact
        3. Determine how substorms power the aurora, and
        4. Identify how local current disruption mechanisms couple to the more global substorm phenomena.

        Here is more from NASA article I quoted above:
        “At first I didn’t believe it,” says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.”
        …..
        “The circumstances were even more surprising. Space physicists have long believed that holes in Earth’s magnetosphere open only in response to solar magnetic fields that point south. The great breach of June 2007, however, opened in response to a solar magnetic field that pointed north.”

      • Here is more from NASA article I quoted above:
        “At first I didn’t believe it,” says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.”

        And you should still not believe it, as it is simply not true.

        “The circumstances were even more surprising. Space physicists have long believed that holes in Earth’s magnetosphere open only in response to solar magnetic fields that point south. The great breach of June 2007, however, opened in response to a solar magnetic field that pointed north.”
        Perhaps Sibeck believed that, but the idea about ‘opening a breach’ is nonsense. The magnetosphere is always open to the solar wind as I showed half a century ago. Now, the magnetosphere is large and it can easily happen that the direction of the field fluctuates over the surface so that the satellite not always measures the overall effective direction. So, a single storm can easily be abnormal in that sense.

        A more realistic picture is that there is enough fluctuation of the field direction over the ‘nose’ of the magnetosphere that reconnection always takes place somewhere [namely in the patches where the field is southward]. Sibecj may be right in saying that the simple-minded idea that the direction is the same over the whole node is not right. So people who believe in simple-minded ideas [including you] may be wrong.
        Bottom line: there are no ‘breaches’ and the solar wind ‘does not pour in’.

      • Doc, I can tell whitewash when I see one; one summer in my student days I earned pocket money by whitewashing second hand furniture.

      • I can tell whitewash when I see one
        But you are easy prey for breathless press-release hype of the kind of ‘not even wrong’.
        Plus, you have a severe case of learning-deficiency.

      • Geomagnetic activity is a good global measure of the effect of the direction of the interplanetary [and CME] magnetic field. Analysis of more than a quarter million hours of data [ http://www.leif.org/research/Coupling-Function-AMS93.pdf ] shows that on average geomagnetic activity is twice as strong for southward fields [cos alpha < 0] than for northwards fields:


        This is well-understood and well-established. The Figure shows activity as a function of the field strength B and the direction [cos alpha].

      • vukcevic March 25, 2017 at 11:18 am
        “For reasons not fully understood, CMEs in even-numbered solar cycles (like 24) tend to hit Earth with a leading edge that is magnetized north. Such a CME should open a breach and load the magnetosphere with plasma just before the storm gets underway. It’s the perfect sequence for a really big event.”
        If this were true geomagnetic storms in even cycles should be stronger than in odd cycles. But, in fact there is absolutely no difference:

        Shows the Dst-index [a measure of the storms size] as a function of time from impact for more than 800 storms since 1905. The storms start with a compression of the magnetosphere [Dst goes up] followed by a depression [Dst goes down] due to the currents generated by the charged particles that have entered to magnetosphere. It then takes several days for that effect to die down as the particles [in the Van Allen belts] are gradually lost by collisions and various wave interactions.

      • “Polarity can be detected only when one of the solar monitoring satellites is hit, but NASA could be devising methods for earlier detection.”

        That answered the question I had, vukcevic. Thank you.

  28. Off topic: everyone turn on your lights tonight. Earth Hour, in honor of man’s dominion over nature.

  29. We wouldn’t be talking about space weather if Earth didn’t produce it’s own ELECTRIC currents from the outer core ( the Geodynamo ) . Electromagnetism protects use from the suns solar wind and allows life as we know it to evolve.

    “Our planet’s magnetic field is believed to be generated deep down in the Earth’s core.

    Nobody has ever taken the mythical journey to the centre of the Earth, but by studying the way shockwaves from earthquakes travel through the planet, physicists have been able to work out its likely structure.

    Right at the heart of the Earth is a solid inner core, two thirds of the size of the Moon and composed primarily of iron. At a hellish 5,700°C, this iron is as hot as the Sun’s surface, but the crushing pressure caused by gravity prevents it from becoming liquid.

    Surrounding this is the outer core, a 2,000 km thick layer of iron, nickel, and small quantities of other metals. Lower pressure than the inner core means the metal here is fluid.

    Differences in temperature, pressure and composition within the outer core cause convection currents in the molten metal as cool, dense matter sinks whilst warm, less dense matter rises. The Coriolis force, resulting from the Earth’s spin, also causes swirling whirlpools.

    This flow of liquid iron generates electric currents, which in turn produce magnetic fields. Charged metals passing through these fields go on to create electric currents of their own, and so the cycle continues. This self-sustaining loop is known as the geodynamo.

    The spiralling caused by the Coriolis force means that separate magnetic fields created are roughly aligned in the same direction, their combined effect adding up to produce one vast magnetic field engulfing the planet.”
    http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=64

    • Almost correct description except for this
      Charged metals passing through these fields
      There are no charges running around. What they mean is conducting metals

      • Lief, “Charged metals passing through these fields”
        Ok Replace “charged metals” with currents of conducting metals.

        “For a time electric currents seemed so different from electric charges at rest that the two were studied separately. It seemed as if there were four kinds of electricity: positive and negative electrostatic charges, and positive and negative moving charges in currents. Now scientists know better. There are just two kinds, positive and negative, exerting the same kind of forces whether they were ‘electrostatic charges from friction’ or ‘moving charges from power supplies’. ”
        http://practicalphysics.org/electric-charge-and-current-short-history.html

        What is electricity
        “Electricity figures everywhere in our lives. Electricity lights up our homes, cooks our food, powers our computers, television sets, and other electronic devices. Electricity from batteries keeps our cars running and makes our flashlights shine in the dark.”
        http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter02.html

        “The Earth’s magnetic field is believed to be generated by electric currents in the conductive material of its core, created by convection currents due to heat escaping from the core. However the process is complex, and computer models that reproduce some of its features have only been developed in the last few decades.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_magnetic_field

        “In physics and materials science, the Curie temperature (TC), or Curie point, is the temperature at which certain materials lose their permanent magnetic properties, to be replaced by induced magnetism. The Curie temperature is named after Pierre Curie, who showed that magnetism was lost at a critical temperature.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curie_temperature

      • Ok Replace “charged metals” with currents of conducting metals.
        Even that can confuse people. Better to replace ‘currents’ with ‘flows’ or ‘movements’ so people do not think the currents are electric currents.

      • Lief New discoveries about the ELECTRICAL nature of inner Earth.
        3 October 2016
        “Oceans might not be thought of as magnetic, but they make a tiny contribution to our planet’s protective magnetic shield. Remarkably, ESA’s Swarm satellites have not only measured this extremely faint field, but have also led to new discoveries about the electrical nature of inner Earth.”
        http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Swarm/Magnetic_oceans_and_electric_Earth

      • It has been known for more than 150 years that the interior of the Earth was an electrical conductor and that electrical currents were flowing down there. The more detailed mapping of the conductivity adds detal but not new knowledge about the nature of the electrical currents/

    • There is no absolute certainty that any of the dynamo models, and there are few, is accurate. What we know is that the geomagnetic field is in a continuous ‘flux’. Current (the 12th Generation) IGRF model shows that the rate of increasing intensity in the S. Indian Ocean is gaining in intensity is matched by decrease in the N. American continent

      Map of predicted annual rate of change of total intensity for 2015.0-2020.0. Credit BGS

      • What we know is that the geomagnetic field is in a continuous ‘flux’.
        Somewhat disingenuous. We do know a lot and our knowledge is steadily improving, but the basics remains rock solid.

      • The knowledge of its generation by a dynamo and its description by high-order spherical harmonics are ‘rock solid’. The rest are details [that are steadily improving]. Your attempts to sow uncertainty and doubt fall flat.

  30. I feel in some way that the space weather scare is promoted as a fall back solution if the CO2/climate scare fails to work. The only problem is that you can hardly blame mankind for the threat.

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