Spaceweather protection bill passes the Senate

From the “a single Carrington event can ruin your whole day, er, life” department:

WASHINGTON — The Senate unanimously passed a bill May 2 intended to support space weather research and planning to protect critical infrastructure from solar storms.

The Senate passed, via unanimous consent, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act. The bill cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in January, which had approved a similar bill in 2016.

The bill is designed to outline roles and responsibilities for various U.S. government agencies to research, forecast and respond to space weather, which can affect communications, the power grid and other systems. It builds upon a national space weather strategy and action plan released by the Obama administration in October 2015.

The legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop options to replace solar imaging data provided by the aging Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, launched more than 20 years ago. NOAA is pursuing that through its Space Weather Follow-On program. That program received $5 million in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill released May 1, double the amount in NOAA’s original request.

“I am pleased the Senate approved this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will help ensure federal agencies are able to protect against extreme space weather, and I urge the House of Representatives to swiftly approve this bill so we are well prepared to predict and avoid a possible worst case scenario space weather event,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement May 2.

“A large-scale space weather event could have a major impact on our economy and national security and interrupt the delivery of essential services,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a co-sponsor of the bill, in the statement. “We must prioritize research and development in our critical infrastructure and be prepared to respond to a potentially catastrophic event.

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May 6, 2017 3:40 pm

Keep a close watch, lets make sure this important research isn’t hijacked by the climate alarmists.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Felflames
May 6, 2017 3:56 pm

The same paranoid thought I had.

Reply to  Felflames
May 6, 2017 6:41 pm

Exactly, I think this is the kind of research both sides can get behind. No need of taxes to change the weather, no beating up farmers over their flatulating cows, no anti-Trump protesters masquerading as scientists, no world governments, no global treaties, no fascists required.

Rhoda R
Reply to  Klem
May 6, 2017 6:56 pm

But what are the opportunities for graft?

Reply to  Klem
May 6, 2017 8:06 pm

Rhoda: Graft and cronyism just as likely as with most other government funding.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Klem
May 6, 2017 8:51 pm

Beware. It will become just another convenient scare that cyan tits will get massive funding to promote…

Reply to  Felflames
May 7, 2017 4:10 pm

Inevitable, Felflames. NOAA is alarmism writ large.
Same with our corrupted Bureau of Meteorology in Australia.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

May 6, 2017 4:01 pm

Hopefully while they are watching the sun……they’ll look for asteroids! 8-/

May 6, 2017 4:01 pm

It is received knowledge that a modern Carrington Event would destroy our infrastructure. I wonder how accurate that is. The storm disrupted telegraphs but didn’t destroy them. In fact, some operators discovered that they could disconnect their batteries and keep working. link
In the wake of the 2003 blackout, the grid has been improved. link On the other hand, all the stupid windmills probably make the grid less robust.

george e. smith
Reply to  commieBob
May 6, 2017 6:05 pm

I watched a congressional panel presentation on C-SPAN-3 just the other day (24-48 hours ago).
Don’t remember if it was House or Senate Committee. That nitwit stand-up comedian that got elected to Congress was one of the Democrat Members; I guess that’s Al Franken; so maybe he’s a Senator. When he talks to these committees, he has his hand over his mouth so you can’t hear what he is saying; which is ok, because when he is saying something, he isn’t saying anything.
Now all of the expert witnesses were retread former members of this or that Government agency, from Obama / Bush / Clinton /Bush etc. Mostly old over the hill like me.
Far as I know, none of them are Physicists, but they now work for this or that company or consulting firm that consults with government agencies (fancy that).
They each gave their five minute drone (read from written statements) none of which presented any kind of scientific data on any kind of real or perceived threat.
They did mumble about Cyber threats, and EMP threads, and Space Weather threats, but presented NO hard scientific evidence of the method of destruction due to any of these threats.
So maybe this is what lead to the subject of this thread.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 8:51 pm

You and Hocus Locus below are wrong.
Even early nuclear testing at high level affected Las Vegas, a couple hundred miles away, even though they were low-yield devices. Look up Operation Fishbowl.
Sen. Ron Johnson has been pursuing this legislation for a couple of years. The main issue is with the large transformers in our electrical grid which can be damaged from EMP. There are virtually no reserve transformers and it takes at least 1/2 year to build one. If hundreds of these were damaged, the U.S. would revert to the stone age. Sure, military installation are hardened, but civilian systems would shut down. No direct electricity; no pumping stations for gasoline and oil; no natural gas distribution. You figure out the consequences.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 7, 2017 1:38 am

Thinker May 6, 2017 at 8:51 pm

The voltages induced on telegraph lines by the original Carrington Event were approximately the same as the battery voltages they used, ie. tens of volts. They were not usually the thousands of volts required to punch through a transformer.
Telegraphy was in its infancy and there were many different wiring methods. There are reports of some American systems throwing sparks. As far as I can tell, that didn’t happen in Europe. Also, as far as I can tell, there were no reports of equipment damage.

The increase of the telegraph stability resulting from a better management of grounding and induction loops mitigated the effect of magnetic storms in such a way that they became again a concern only when radio-propagation developed in its turn. link

Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2017 6:30 am

In Carrington events the voltage builds slowly, plenty of time for the circuit breakers to kick in.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2017 11:30 am

Your link (Thinker) contains a virus. I did look at it. I’m still puzzled as to when they exploded nuclear weapons over Nevada at high altitudes. I know they did tests on towers, and eventually underground, but was not aware of any explosions at very high altitudes which would give EMPs.
An event which would blow up multimegawatt transformers, would have blown out the speaker cones in my stereo system; even if it was not switched on.
I can understand how a sudden pulse of isotropic gamma rays lasting a microsecond, would give rise to electron showers, and also how a simultaneous pulse of fast neutrons, would give showers of knock-on Protons.
Such current impulses would of course correspond to a spread spectrum of a Si-x type; (sin(x) / x), and it would be hundred KHz to MHz range.
How that would destroy a high voltage (multi hundred KV) transmission line or an attached transformer.
So It takes a year to build one of these transformers. I would think someone would have ordered one by now so as to be ready for when it happens.
I don’t see any space storm being of microsecond duration, so it wouldn’t be any sort of coherent signal. If the source is an outburst from the suns surface regions, it is going to be a highly dispersive sort of event, with a spread of charged particle velocities. I don’t see how you get some oscillatory signal from basically a uni-directional current pulse (when it reaches earth); unless it is very low frequency (minutes long impulse).
Transmission lines are tightly twisted (relative to their 5,000 KM wavelength, I suspect at least one complete twist in less than 10 km. so it’s fairly immune to differential signal pickup, and the whole transmission line viewed as a single conductor, (plus its ground image) comprises a two wire transmission line akin to 300 ohm TV ribbon, but in this case, probably well over 1,000 ohms impedance for common mode signals. The characteristic impedance would vary significantly due to the cable sag between towers, so the transmission would be full of reflection generated from every tower to tower segment..
Their terra-floppy computers should be able to calculate quite well what the transmission of such signals would be.
But all of the information we see on these risks, is all hand waving, and no scientific numbers ever mentioned.
Has anybody EVER experienced their car suddenly shut off the engine, due to a solar flare event.
I once had an XK140 (1956) hard top Jaguar Coupe doing 70 MPH along a straight road in Alberta Canada, maybe British Columbia, purring like a cat; and suddenly total dead silence, except for the wind noise as it slowed to an eventual stop.
Turned out to be the main ignition lead to the distributor, had a bakelite enclosed carbon suppression resistor, in the middle of it, and that had overheated, and eventually just broke in half with instantaneous loss of ignition.
A couple of minutes later, after clipping a piece off a barbed wire fence, with my tool kit, I was back up to 70 and still purring.
But I’ve never experienced a space weather shut down, of even my electric toothbrush. Oh I forgot, I don’t have an electric toothbrush; it’s how I get my morning calisthenics.
But I’m glad people are seriously thinking about infra-structure security, and designing for immunity.
But if you have the people who program our local traffic lights, designing your power control software and hardware; then you get what you deserve. A two year old child can make better decisions. And I believe ALL of these blackouts, and brownouts are cause by control screw-ups, and not by space weather.
The only space whether I am concerned about at all, is whether a big asteroid hits us !

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 11:14 am

george e. smith
From Wikipedia, but you can look it google it for other sources.
Starfish Prime was a July 9, 1962 high-altitude nuclear test conducted by the United States, a joint effort of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Defense Atomic Support Agency. It was the largest nuclear test conducted in outer space and one of five conducted by the US in space.
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.[5]

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 1:47 pm

MarkW: “In Carrington events the voltage builds slowly, plenty of time for the circuit breakers to kick in.”
Close but no cigar.
Look up the term “islanding” as it applies to electric power systems. Advance notice of an impending solar event gives system operator TIME to make changes in power ‘routing’. and depend less heavily on LONG distribution circuits.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 1:53 pm

Thinker: “Even early nuclear testing at high level affected Las Vegas, a couple hundred miles away, even though they were low-yield devices. Look up Operation Fishbowl.”
Funny, there are NO actual reports that detail with any certainty WHAT was damaged let alone HOW it was damaged.
So far, all we have are these ‘grand hand waves’ and allusions to ‘damage’.

Hocus Locus
Reply to  commieBob
May 6, 2017 8:28 pm

It’s hard to imagine a level of sustained EMF that would task the grid harder than local lightning strikes presently do. And there is NO extremely long run above ground copper used in communications any more… such as the 19th century telegraph lines that provide the main “Carrington talking point”. Nuclear EMP is and will always be a risk due to its intensity and short duration of pulse. But even there an aggressor must set off many devices, each for a relatively small area and low altitude to reliably kill electronics.
The challenge of today is political, where small megalopolii such as New York and LA become hysterically obsessed with a single low probability event such as NK detonating a single nuke, and seek to wage endless war with the entire world, monopolize resources that could be spent improving our suitability as a country and species… boring stuff like repairing infrastructure, planetary asteroid defense, building Molten Salt reactors….
Cities are useful but they also breed herd stupidity. And if there’s one thing you can count on it is that they will take what they need by force, destroy anything they cannot use, and never face the responsibility for the decision they collectively made to gather all in one place. Don’t let them take over. Topic meander alert.

Ron Williams
Reply to  Hocus Locus
May 7, 2017 2:51 am

Except we have a whole lot of aluminum conductors everywhere, called power lines. It doesn’t have to be copper, which is a better conductor than aluminum, but still almost as good if sized accordingly. Plus the 500 KV lines are extra large cables and capable of carrying a lot of amps at that voltage. It is those substation transformers that could fry which spares aren’t laying around and couldn’t be replaced for months. Then it becomes a very serious national security issue.
We haven’t been hit by a Carrington type event in the modern age, and if Quebec in 1989 is any indication, then it could be a big problem for modern day electronics/grid/satellite infrastructure. While lightening strikes can definitely be a problem, grounding generally solves that. Massive induction build up on the other hand is a different kettle of fish.
This spending bill unanimously approved by Congress gives me hope (and finally faith in Congress doing the right thing for science) that finally we will be able to to see in real time the level of space threat that is coming our way. Lets not rag on our lawmakers for doing real science for understanding and prevention of a possible significant threat. Depending on the level of threat, if just turning off the grid for several hours while the event passes is a remedy, then will be money well spent. Also keep in mind that the further north/south you go, the worse the solar type of EMP pulse would be. But the northern/southern lights would be the sight of the century and these events happen to some degree every century or so. Maybe more, since we just don’t know and hence the enhanced monitoring of such. Money well spent in my books.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
May 12, 2017 1:42 pm

re: “It’s hard to imagine a level of sustained EMF that would task the grid harder than local lightning strikes presently do. ”
Hocus Locus, GOOD overall observation in your post and you are right.
See also the paper by Rabinowitz linked at the bottom of this tread for more info on this.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
May 12, 2017 1:44 pm

Ron Williams: “Except we have a whole lot of aluminum conductors everywhere, called power lines”
SO what.
You are nowhere near FUSING CURRENTS which is the only danger to a ‘line’.

Reply to  commieBob
May 7, 2017 10:29 am

So here is the issue, wiring.
Large transformers would receive DC induced currents that would be uncontrolled. Over several hours that would heat up and damage these large transformers, like in the Quebec event.
Nuclear EMP and lightning strikes don’t do that.
For everything else, wiring. Think of the millions of miles of network, phone and power cables in every office building. Everyone one of them would be surging with this DC current. If 1% of them act like the wires that sparked and burned the telegraph operators during the Carrington event, we would be looking at tens of thousands of fires. There would be no electricity…. no water pressure, no communications. Those fires would run out of control.
Every smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC have WiFi and other antennas that could damage sensitive CMOS chips.
… Oh…. I forget…. Data Centers. That would be one ugly mess if they fry. They are not shielded for this.
The big transformers that we are most worried about, weigh something like a 100 tons each. Take a year to build, and none are produced in the U.S. So, all infrastructure, water, sewage, hospitals, transportation, cooling heating, food processing, Industry, would shutdown.
One last thing, the magnetic north pole is much closer to the US then Europe. We would get a the worst of it.

Reply to  DavidQ
May 8, 2017 5:34 am

Big transformers are protected. link

george e. smith
Reply to  DavidQ
May 8, 2017 1:36 pm

Large transformers would receive just how many amps of DC current and over how many hours ??
These modern power station systems are quite remarkable.
They have these ingenious circuit elements called ….. fuses …..
These devices have a mind of their own; don’t need any control electronics at all to go wrong, and they can disconnect a large DC current; no matter how large, in about a second or so.
It’s almost magic that happens without human interference.
As for the magnetic north pole being close to the USA, the earth’s magnetic field is so weak, it would not distort the arriving charged particle showers much at all.
From what I have seen, the most apparent evidence of some space weather striking earth is the visual displays of the aurora. This effect takes place at very high altitudes, where the molecular density is extremely low. Those very same gases are quite ionizable at ground level given a suitably large blatch, such as would melt a 100 ton Transformer that takes a year to build.
I’ve never seen any sort of near ground level auroral displays, but I have seen plenty of lightning strikes. I think dry air has a breakdown voltage of about 3 megavolts per meter; it’s well over a thousand volts for a 1 mm dry air gap.
There would be no surviving transformers left on earth if they were that susceptible to very large impulse surges.
You are welcome to invest as much of your 401K or IRA funds, as you like, in space weather protection, but I can think of things that have a better payback, for my limited resources.

Reply to  DavidQ
May 8, 2017 2:29 pm

george e. smith May 8, 2017 at 1:39 pm
… Like how many long barbed wire fences did it fry ??

None. On the other hand, some cattle and a couple of cowboys were surprised, shocked even. It led to the invention of the electric fence. 😉

Reply to  DavidQ
May 12, 2017 1:37 pm

DavidQ, you need to get a batter grip on the physics involved; it ain’t the short lines but the LONG transmission lines (and xformers) that are at risk.

Reply to  DavidQ
May 12, 2017 1:39 pm

commieBob: “Big transformers are protected.”
^^ THIS ^^

Alan Bale
Reply to  commieBob
May 8, 2017 2:38 am

I believe that some telegraphs burst into flames. We escaped a possible ‘Carrington Event’ a few years ago when a CME luckily missed the Earth. They should be taken seriously.

Reply to  Alan Bale
May 8, 2017 10:22 am

I believe that some telegraphs burst into flames.

In a few cases in America, sparks from the telegraph equipment ignited improperly stored paper and chemicals. Most telegraph equipment didn’t experience sparks.
The much bigger problem for telegraphs is lightning. Even early telegraphs had lightning protection that would also protect them from Carrington induced overvoltages. Similarly, modern equipment is protected from lightning.

george e. smith
Reply to  Alan Bale
May 8, 2017 1:39 pm

Who or what was Carrington ??, and just exactly what happened as far as just the space weather aspect of it. Like how many long barbed wire fences did it fry ??
Just asking.

Reply to  Alan Bale
May 10, 2017 9:55 am

There’s a natural and completely predictable tendency to vastly overstate a threat for which there is no precedent example to cite (e.g. a Carrington event with today’s infrastructure.) I give you “Y2K” for a perfect illustration. Lots of people made big bucks selling Y2K survival kits, and the Y2K scare was a major impetus for today’s survivalist cult movement. $Billions were spent willy-nilly to mitigate a Y2K “threat” which was a complete hoax.

Jay Hope
Reply to  Alan Bale
May 11, 2017 3:06 pm

Yes, Alan, they should be taken seriously. And anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.

Reply to  commieBob
May 12, 2017 2:03 pm

commieBob: “It is received knowledge that a modern Carrington Event would … ”
No one RECALLS the procedures manual training link I posted which goes into what the PJM grid operator has planned to do WHEN a a solar/geomagnetic event is imminent.
Here, I’ll post it again and we can ALL forget about it shortly:
Hee is what the 2nd slide in the series begins with:
 Explain how severe weather conditions are identified and to describe when it is necessary to provide additional capacity and to staff the necessary generating sites for a future critical period
 Correctly describe what a Geo-Magnetic Disturbance is, and its potential effects on the power system.
 Identify the trigger points for implementing the PJM Geo-Magnetic Disturbance procedure.

May 6, 2017 4:01 pm

NOAA, now this is grant money well spent. Don’t waste it and don’t abuse it. Keep politics out of it.

May 6, 2017 4:06 pm

I wonder who’ll be watching this hen house.

May 6, 2017 4:08 pm

Monitoring space weather is all well and good but what about space climate?

Reply to  Jones
May 6, 2017 7:30 pm

That should be space climate change, shouldn’t it?

Reply to  TA
May 7, 2017 4:33 am

The universe is going to become a rare and exciting event.
Children just aren’t going to know what the multiverse is.

Reply to  TA
May 7, 2017 5:46 am

Could CAGW alarmists at NOAA try to use this funding to suppress or counter the work of researchers like Svensmark, Soon, or Svalgaard?

george e. smith
Reply to  TA
May 8, 2017 1:42 pm

So we have at least three Dr. S’s whose disparate works need to be suppressed.
What on earth did Leif do to bring this down on himself ??

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  Jones
May 6, 2017 11:12 pm

They’ll need to monitor for at least 30 years before they can talk about man made space climate change.

May 6, 2017 4:26 pm

The universe is cooling!!!

Ron Williams
Reply to  Asp
May 6, 2017 5:48 pm

Actually it is. Everything moves from a state of order to disorder, including heat to cold. I can feel it in my bones, this feeling of impending entropy.

george e. smith
Reply to  Asp
May 6, 2017 6:38 pm

Still got a whole 2.7 kelvin to go. That’s enough to last till the end of the universe.

Ron Williams
Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 8:17 pm

That’s a blink in the eye of eternity. I was referring more to my bones…(grin)

Berényi Péter
Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2017 5:29 am

Eternity is a long long time, especially towards the end.

George Daddis
May 6, 2017 4:37 pm

What else would you expect from an anti-science administration?
Oh, wait a minute.
I guess the March for Science REALLY WAS effective.
Never underestimate Bill Nye. /sarc

May 6, 2017 4:38 pm

Large damages? It’s all models.
These alarmists.
Have they ever predicTed one of these things? If not its not science. Popper said so.
Don’t they know that life needs the sun. It’s all good.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 6, 2017 5:04 pm

Right. We should harden all power lines and all communications to withstand a Carrington Event. We should build underground shelters for all the world population in case the event is protracted.

george e. smith
Reply to  Curious George
May 6, 2017 6:41 pm

How many years did it take for the USA power grid to recover from the last Carrington event ?
Who remembers what it was like without an electric tooth brush all those years ??

Reply to  Curious George
May 7, 2017 4:35 am

My iPhone packed up.

Reply to  Curious George
May 12, 2017 1:33 pm

Curious George: “Right. We should harden all …”
That is NOT necessary.
Go look at the physics involved.
It is just the LONG transmission lines that are of concern, and WE HAVE A HANDLE ON WHAT NEEDS TO BR DONE ALREADY.

May 6, 2017 4:44 pm

Am I reading this correctly?
The alarmists have so much confidence in their ability to predict our own planets weather/climate, they are arrogant enough to take on the universal climate?
Words fail me……….Obama administration. WTF? Of course the man wasn’t born in Kenya, he was born on another planet!

Reply to  HotScot
May 7, 2017 8:24 am

The problem is, they CAN’T predict it–all they can do is shut things off when one is already on the way.

Reply to  RockyRoad
May 7, 2017 6:55 pm

Dingdingding!!!!!!! We got a winner!!!!!! With Solar Storm type emergencies you have to have people willing to shut shit down BEFORE it hits. With EMP attack you got to have warning it is coming.

Reply to  RockyRoad
May 8, 2017 6:35 am

You can monitor the rockets being launched.

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2017 5:00 pm

3 minutes is a very narrow window. We are talking morons too stupid to get real jobs so they work for government, takes them 45 minutes to sneeze, IF they have 90 days prior notice. Norks are most likely going to do a launch of a medium range battle field rocket from a container ship, not a ICBM across Pacific. All this dicking around with ICBMs is camo. US Military response will be swift and accurate, GS employee response will be muddled and do as much damage to America as any enemy attack.

Mike McMillan
May 6, 2017 4:57 pm

Space weather forecast:

Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 6, 2017 5:40 pm

You made my day, with that one.

george e. smith
Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 6, 2017 6:43 pm

yes it is only on earth that it ever gets un sunny.

R. de Haan
May 6, 2017 5:17 pm

I can’t even get a sun burn where I live.
Just back up your digital treasures like your finacial data, photo’s, video’s contracts, your Bit Coin Wallet etc. on optical media like a DVD instread of a magnetic data carrier.
A Carrington Event or an EMP will wipe out your magnetic stored data from harddisks to thumb drives.
Think about it.

george e. smith
Reply to  R. de Haan
May 6, 2017 6:46 pm

We should do a demonstration EMP event over the Pacific, to show people how bad it will be.

Rhoda R
Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 7:00 pm

That actually isn’t a bad idea. Set up some uninhabited island with ‘standard’ infrastructure and blow an EMP over is and analyze the results. Better than all this guessing.

Reply to  Rhoda R
May 6, 2017 7:06 pm

The conditions for an EMP/Carrington event to occur are not easy to replicate. By anyone.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 7:06 pm

@ Rhoda R

Ron Williams
Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 8:48 pm

They actually did with some of the space burst atomic weapons testing in the mid Pacific in the late 50’s/early 60’s and there was some electrical failure issues in Hawaii that was 1600 miles away. Operation Starfish exploded a medium size hydrogen bomb at 250 miles altitude. One of the scientific discoveries was that the Starfish bomb contained Cd-109 tracer, which helped work out the seasonal mixing rate of polar and tropical air masses.
One of the fears of North Korea’s nuclear attempts is either a deliberate or accidental detonation over continental Canada/USA that could do a lot of monetary damage without any physical damage. All of this is very serious issue to be sure and should not be taken lightly.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 7, 2017 12:40 pm

Sputnik was launched in 1957; aka the late 1950s. The USA, had nothing successfully launched for quite some time.
So when were those space nuclear bombs detonated ??

Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2017 4:37 am

US did no high altitude blasts in the nuclear weapon tests in the 1950s?

Reply to  2hotel9
May 8, 2017 8:22 am


US did no high altitude blasts in the nuclear weapon tests in the 1950s?

The French (over their Pacific islands), UK (over Australia), and the US nuclear above-ground tests were (literally) in the middle of “nowhere” and almost all were very close to the ground. Even air-bursts were designed to test the blast effects on ships and weapons -> so high-altitude air bursts (which would simulate the anti-air nuclear blasts against massed bomber streams before the bomber stream could get over US cities) were very seldom tested.
The Alaskan rocket launches tested charged particle emissions very, very high up, and how those particle would propagate around the polar geomagnetic streams (how they would get dispursed). From those, and from the one EMP-type burst, the US decided that massive damage would ensue, too great over too big an area even in the pre-electronic days of 1950-1958, that they never repeated the high-altitude blasts. (Pre-electronic era, only a few but the radars and fire control systems in the military needed anything but 120 volt ac power. And very, very little was digital, even in the navy fire control and radars. O-scopes, for example, where used in radar displays. Analog paper charts for launching and tracking missiles, for recording data on spiral-graphic pen-and-paper sheets for refineries, manufacturing, steel and paper industries.
The “Theory” of massive damage from a high-altitude nuclear blast makes sense, and seems real. But it has never actually been tested against the real world. Of course, that fear also means that the US military hardens THEIR electronics and THEIR radios and THEIR crypto receivers and combat-designed GPS and fire control computers (one more reason why US military budget is so high for so few parts and pieces), but those are only tested to “specifications” in labs before sale is approved.
Civilian side? Almost nothing [is] protected against EMP.
Instead they (US and USSR) began the above-ground nuclear test ban talks.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 9, 2017 5:18 pm

But we did do high altitude shoots, and the adverse effects on electrical systems was observed early from ground and low altitude shoots. I don’t have to grasp the higher maths to understand using a Claymore without adequate cover will kill me just as dead as the enemy, observational data suffices! 😉

Ron Williams
Reply to  george e. smith
May 7, 2017 4:59 pm

Operation Starfish was part of the larger Operation Fishbowl (underwater explosions at Bikini Atoll.) The specific Operation Starfish I refer to was the Starfish testing was one of five high-altitude tests grouped together as Operation Fishbowl Yield‎: ‎1.4 megatons (6.0 PJ) Date‎: ‎July 9, 1962
Test series‎: ‎Operation Fishbowl

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 11:17 am

We did.
Operation Starfish Prime

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 1:29 pm

Cook: “Civilian side? Almost nothing [is] protected against EMP.”
NOT true.
ESD testing is performed on ALL product, JUST to survive a ‘carpet shock’ in the home. Commercial gear as well (of course). Lightning testing assures even MORE survival capability.
ICs are even DESIGNED with ESD protection in the I/O lines now. Check a databook!

Reply to  R. de Haan
May 8, 2017 6:36 am

Both a Carrington event and an EMP are about a million times to weak to wipe out magnetic data storage.

R. de Haan
May 6, 2017 5:23 pm
george e. smith
Reply to  R. de Haan
May 6, 2017 6:47 pm

Rubbish !!

Rhoda R
Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 7:03 pm

wouldn’t keeping all your USB drives in a metal box protect them? Or put your laptop in a metal box/Faraday cage type thing?

Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 9:00 pm

George, you are obviously skeptical about a natural Carrington event and a nuclear EMP event. I can understand the former because it is quite rare, but why would you question the known effects of a high-altitude nuclear event? Wishful thinking? What is your contrary proof? I suspect it is more predisposition on your part than scientific. I was a Minuteman launch commander in the late 60s and early 70s. We knew well what the consequences of different types of explosions were and why our missiles were targeted differently. What is your experience?

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 7, 2017 3:58 pm

Thinker I set out to answer your question, but the stupid fake certificate pestilence that tries to shut down WUWT, stopped me from finishing it, and I had to do a hardware reset of my computer to regain control.
I’ve posted enough details of my credentials such as they are, to satisfy any curiosity.
I’ve been studying or working in physics, and mathematics for almost seventy years now (still working in those fields), more than 55 years of it in the USA, and actively in the middle of Silicon valley for 50 years. No need to give you all the gory details.
Interesting that you were in charge of Minutemen things. I was designing electronic instrumentation (commercial) actually using Minuteman integrated circuits (Fairchild RTL) in 1964.
But I’m sure you know a lot more about those things than I do.

george e. smith
Reply to  george e. smith
May 8, 2017 2:16 pm

May 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm
George, you are obviously skeptical about a natural Carrington event and a nuclear EMP event. …..”””””
Thinker, I’ve never seen a Minuteman missile, but in the EARLY sixties, I WAS using Minuteman Integrated circuits (in commercial grade) to design advanced electronic test instruments.
In fact I designed what I believe to this day, was actually the very first such instrument, to be designed with almost all integrated circuits. That was the Monsanto Model 1000 general purpose eight digit counter timer; using Nixie tubes for digital readout.
I actually designed that whole instrument myself (electronics of) in one month, from a twinkle in my supervisor’s eye (in response to a question from HIS boss) to production ready prototype complete with Rose Wood handles. That was the month of December 1964. I missed the target deadline (Christmas Day) by one week, because around Christmas, nobody works, so I couldn’t get all the parts fast enough. So in the Research Director’s view I was a total nincompoop. He had no way of knowing you can’t design a 20 MHz general purpose counter time in a month. My supervisor told him I could do that.
We did have a full production instrument ready to show at the IEEE convention in New York City in early March 1965.
But I do have a Physics Degree with an extra Major in ” Radio-Physics ” which includes Radio propagation, the ionosphere, electronic circuit design (analog and digital) and so forth.
And we had a research program to MEASURE the electric fields under thunderstorm clouds.
So when a storm was predicted, we all set off down to the harbor at a deserted wharf, to blow up some radio-sonde balloons with Hydrogen, and send them aloft into the thunder clouds, ON a STRING, carrying some student’s electric field detection circuitry.
I did MY thesis for a Masters, on a Discriminating Scintillation Counter that could detect and discriminate between Gamma Rays, Alpha particles, and fast Neutrons.
The Gammas are detected from released electrons and the Neutrons from knock on Protons from light atoms .
The Polonium Beryllium neutron source we had gave off 10^4 gammas per Neutron, and proportional gas counters could detect the neutrons, but not the gammas.
The people doing Neutron scattering research were all using proportional counters (Geiger counters sub avalanche threshold), and they were unaware of the HUGE gamma flux, until I built my Stilbene Crystal Scintillation detector, and discrimination circuitry.
So it has been a while since those days, but I still do remember a couple of things here and there.
But nothing like Minuteman launching.

May 6, 2017 6:32 pm

A Damning Factoid,”The Senate passed, via unanimous consent, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act. The bill cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in January, which had approved a similar bill in 2016.”
So, this was blocked by Obama! Was it Tren[d]berth, Hansen, Holdren or Gore who advocated the delay of this legislation! For their own … benefit!
“Be Careful there Mr. Hunter!”

Reply to  JBom
May 6, 2017 6:37 pm


May 6, 2017 6:34 pm

Telegraph operators deserve hazardous duty pay.

Bob Koss
May 6, 2017 6:41 pm

Who volunteers to be on the road with a lot of self-driving cars around if a Carrington Event occurs?

george e. smith
Reply to  Bob Koss
May 6, 2017 6:49 pm

I will, so long as there are no self driving cars on the road before that happens.

Bob Koss
Reply to  george e. smith
May 6, 2017 7:22 pm

Heh. Got me. Caught my poor wording. I should have said ‘when’ instead of ‘if’.

May 6, 2017 7:23 pm

The Carrington event occurred when electricity was still a plaything. There is plenty of evidence of the damage a similar event could do today. The solar storm event in 1989 took out the electrical grid in Québec and left 9 million people in the dark for 9 hours. It was only about 25% as intense as the Carrington event. Still it blew out a couple of high pore transformers in New Jersey I think it was. Lloyds of London speculated a solar event of Carrington magnitude would leave large parts of North America without power for up to a year. No small thing. Far more important than the worst predictions of the Alarmist Climate Change Crowd.

Reply to  pstevens2
May 6, 2017 8:06 pm

How would South Australia be effected?

Ron Williams
Reply to  Curious George
May 7, 2017 2:24 am

Probably wouldn’t, since the power would be out anyway… (grin)

george e. smith
Reply to  pstevens2
May 7, 2017 3:32 pm

What was the voltage and current induced in the power transmission lines leading up to this transformer in New Jersey.
How come a transformer in New Jersey took out the electrical grid in Quebec. Just where did this solar storm induce high voltages and currents in a power transmission line.
We are not talking about badly designed control equipment shorting two circuits together . I’ve seen no evidence of a current induced in a long distance transmission line, big enough to burn out a transformer. these circuits have interrupters that can open circuits that are overloadd.
It would be nice if somebody did some acual induction calculations to show us what the induced voltages and currents would be.
It used to be fashionable to blame high voltage transmission lines of the type we are discussing here causing brain cancer in school students at schools the lines passed over.
The “induced fields” disrupted cell structure in the students creating the cancer.
Somebody finally did the calculations to find out how much EM energy these electric fields could inject into say a DNA molecule.
The photon energy corresponding to 60 hertz or 50 hertz AC radiation, can easily be calculated.
1 micron wavelength corresponds to about 1.38 electron volts. So a one meter wavelength photon is 1.38 electron microvolts. A one km photon is 1.38 electron nanovolts, so a 1,000 km photon is 1.38 electron picovolts, so a 5,000 km photon which is at 60 hertz frequency is 0.276 electron picovolts. Whoopee !
If you calculate the EM energy a 60 hertz 250 kV line would squeeze into the volume of a DNA molecule (human) it is too low by about 27 orders of magnitude to ionize any atom in theat DNA molecule.
I’m not going to bother calculating this space imagined discombobulation.
I’d be happy to read some peer reviewed paper relating to actual measurements of electric fields and magnetic fields in the area of a power transmission line, when one of these solar bursts hit our atmosphere.
After all we get some hours warning of an impending hit so plenty of time to turn on some field measuring equipment. Oh I’m sure they have test equipment capable of measuring electric fields and magnetic fields near a power station, in the atmosphere. They DO have such measuring gear don’t they; capable of measuring megavolts per meter, or kilotesla magnetic fields; Don’t they.. They do , don’t they ???
I suppose the fields due to a EMP event is classified so I won’t ask anybody who knows to give me that number; I don’t want to jeopardize any National Security stuff.
But space weather ought to be open season.

Reply to  george e. smith
May 7, 2017 5:12 pm

If you own a geiger counter, try hanging out under a 120KV tower when the insulators are going snap crackle and pop in late summer. Bremmstrahlung anyone?

Reply to  george e. smith
May 12, 2017 1:19 pm

Most of the concerns you address, George, have been addressed by industry. It is that there is so little COVERAGE in the ‘pop’ press that the public is BADLY mis-informed on this topic …

Reply to  pstevens2
May 12, 2017 1:17 pm

re: “There is plenty of evidence of the damage a similar event could do today.”
We know enough to REDUCE the use of long transmission lines today..
LONG transmission paths are used for what is called ECONOMIC DISPATCH in the power industry, bringing in CHEAPER electricity from distant cheaper sources. The SOLUTION to a GIC or ‘Carrington’ is to use LOCAL generation or those transmission lines NOW equipped with DC BLOCKING CAPACITORS in line to the power transformers to BLOCK the slow varying DC created by the magnetic storm.

May 6, 2017 7:44 pm

Ole Kim Jung Un will be glad to give us a demonstration of the effects of EMP if we give him a little more time to work on his design. Clinton, Bush and Obama gave him all the time he wanted, and now he’s almost there.

Reply to  TA
May 6, 2017 8:11 pm

If you look at a night time picture of North Korea, you get the idea,

Reply to  TA
May 8, 2017 9:08 am

Last I heard, Kim is still having trouble to get his fission bombs to work reliably. My understanding was that you needed a fusion device to trigger an EMP.
Beyond that, he still hasn’t shrunk his bombs enough to get them on missiles, much less launch them into space.

Reply to  MarkW
May 8, 2017 9:20 am

Also, my understanding is conditions for an artificial EMP are theoretically hard to meet, direct with any accuracy, and limited in area affected and duration. No?

Reply to  MarkW
May 12, 2017 1:10 pm

re: “my understanding is conditions for an artificial EMP are”
Think “Lightning”

May 6, 2017 7:46 pm

Not much the Senate does unanimously is worth doing, but this is.

May 6, 2017 9:26 pm

The Grid has been an evolving thing. In 1965, I had a paper route (delivering newspapers to the doorstep…) and on Tuesday, November 9, 1965 a little after 5PM was on top of a hill overlooking Hartford, CT when I witnessed a sweeping wave of blackness wash through the valley below. That turned out to be the start of the 65 Northeast Blackout, 30 million without power for 13 hours.
Supposedly caused by a relay tripping near Niagara Falls. I believe that was the first major incident of that type. See
The aircheck of Don Ingram at WABC AM radio is interesting hear.
For a well researched fiction novel on the effect of an EMP attack on the the US, read One Second After.

Reply to  Yirgach
May 12, 2017 1:09 pm

re: “caused by a relay tripping near Niagara Falls”
The relay trip point was set INCORRECTLY in that event.

May 7, 2017 3:10 am

Perhaps there is some benefit in having aluminium foil sarking in the roof and walls.
At least you are in a partial Faraday’s cage.It might protect some equipment.

Reply to  lewispbuckingham
May 7, 2017 7:31 am

The EMP waves will bend around the edges at least some. I worked in a Faraday cage room in college and learned that its actually rather challenging to create a completely EM isolated space.

george e. smith
Reply to  exSSNcrew
May 7, 2017 3:45 pm

You talk as if you think these events are waves, rather than blasts of charged particles.
If they are waves what is the frequency spectrum involved ??

Reply to  exSSNcrew
May 12, 2017 1:07 pm

re: ” Faraday cage ”
An actual ‘Faraday cage’ is NOT what you think it is …

May 7, 2017 4:29 am

Good first step to protect the US electricity grid? Decentralize control! Far harder to knock out a system with 100s of control points than one with just 3.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  2hotel9
May 7, 2017 10:55 am

What you’re suggesting is the same as feeding every neighborhood in a town with it’s own little supply pipe from the water plant because big main lines sometimes fail and take out half the town.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
May 7, 2017 11:00 am

“The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe” (F. Zappa).

Reply to  Pop Piasa
May 8, 2017 4:29 am

So you really think centralized control is a good idea? Really? We have multiple instances of large area power outages due to a single, central control point failing and you want to double down on stupid? We have real threats to our power grid system from human sources, much less solar events, and the big push is to make it MORE VULNERABLE. Just wow.

Ron Williams
Reply to  2hotel9
May 7, 2017 5:21 pm

“Good first step to protect the US electricity grid? Decentralize control! Far harder to knock out a system with 100s of control points than one with just 3.”
It might make sense to decentralize the command and control, at least for SCADA control via public internet.
This kind of heavy infrastructure especially on National Security grounds may require a local Intranet that is unconnected to the Internet, just so as foreign hacking is minimized. I see this coming as an eventuality for many such industries, because the Internet was initially designed to circumnavigate any gate keeping. Which makes it relatively easy for our enemies to do us harm when they wish. As we did to Iran centrifuges, and as we do now to North Korean missile launches. Next month, we will just use THADD to demonstrate to NK (and China and whomever is watching) that it is futile to threaten us with 25 year old rocket technology.

Reply to  Ron Williams
May 12, 2017 2:20 pm

re: “This kind of heavy infrastructure especially on National Security grounds may require a local Intranet that is unconnected to the Internet,”
Says the man who assumes they are NOT separate now. Do you know who is one of the larger users of private fixed microwave services is?
Have you ever seen the construction of (what is inside of) the ‘ground wire’ that is suspended between those tall power transmission towers? Yup – FIBER OPTIC CABLE. Power co’s aren’t leasing internet drops (for internet) from the local cable company …

Pop Piasa
May 7, 2017 8:57 am

IIRC, a previous similar bill was passed years ago, but only after being gutted and then stuffed with riders for pork barrel projects and “high priority needs”.

Ron Williams
May 7, 2017 5:24 pm

As always, but makes me wonder why Obama gutted it to begin with? He, being a rational man, and deferring to experts, I would have thought this would have been up and running by now. Politics…

Reply to  Ron Williams
May 7, 2017 5:54 pm

I think one of the problems with preparing for an EMP event is who is going to pay for the spare replacement hardware that will be required to replace the burnout equipment. The government wants the power companies to pay the price, and the power companies want the government to pay the price.
I haven’t seen the details of this latest bill, so I don’t know who is going to do the paying.

Reply to  TA
May 12, 2017 2:13 pm

You make statements as if they were fact; LOOK at the trouble the AGW crowd got into with that tack.

May 7, 2017 7:57 pm

I find the skepticism about the potential danger of CMEs extremely disturbing. There have been numerous scientific reports about the continental and global dangers over the past few years. Granted, these have tended to play down the worst scenarios by avoiding mention of the gruesome consequences long-term. And apparently, there is some considerable variation in the time required to replace large transformers. The initial figures I read were on the scale of 3 years for one, and that these had to be custom-made for the location on the grid. Here I see postings citing three months to a year, presumably to replace dozens!
The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that a) there are no spares, and b) no one presently manufactures such transformers in North America. How one would build such transformers without any existing infrastructure and without a functional national electrical grid has never been addressed, nor the question of how long a wait one could expect standing in line behind more favoured jurisdictions, starting with the countries where such transformers are currently fabricated.
It’s been estimated that water-cooled nuclear reactors might be able to run for a month on back-up power (assuming that was still functional) while off the grid before meltdown. How many people in the downwind, downstream region would still be alive after that grace period is anybody’s guess. Some states used to require storage of potassium iodide crystals by all pharmacies in case of a nuclear incident. Now that we know of the much greater threat, and are determinedly paying it lip service, maybe they should be stocking suicide kits, just in case…
What most amazes me even more is that the dangers of EMP is being questioned here. I recall when this first became a public issue, at least among PC users. At the time, it was reported that shielding against EMP was so expensive that only one of the presidential planes had been retrofitted. I was involved with a civil defense group in Western Canada at the time, and living in a region downwind from the nuclear submarine base in Washington State, and wondered how one would be warned against wind-borne fallout from the coast if all electrical communication were disrupted.
When I contacted the regional RCMP headquarters, I was told they had no shielding for EMP and no plan. When I made my concerns public, the regional civil defense director gathered all the emergency personnel and volunteers of my town for a meeting in which he ridiculed the whole idea of EMP disruption of communications systems. He was a Search and Rescue guy, and didn’t want his SAR budget diminished by any other concerns.
At that time, you could find laptop PCs with a milspec rating for EMP shielding on the market. Last time I searched, about a year ago, I couldn’t find anything of the sort. It’s unlikely in the extreme that the US military has stopped researching the effects of EMP and methods of protecting against it. So they certainly must know more about it than they did in Reagan’s time. But they seem to have silenced all news reports on such developments.
Skeptics should direct their ire in that direction.

Reply to  otropogo
May 8, 2017 8:42 am

Most power plants have 1 spare large transformer for the 3 large transformers that are constantly in use: They (logically) figure that a fire may take out one of the three required for 3-phase power, but a single fire is unlikely to burn every transformer. (There are elaborate fire spray systems and shielding concrete walls between adjacent transformers.) Problem is, if there are 900 transformers blown in 300 different power plants, then even combining the spares from distant plants (assuming the spares are the right sizes and capacities!) still doesn’t bring the grid back up.
Replacing a transformer with a local spare is not cheap, fast, nor easy either.

Reply to  otropogo
May 8, 2017 11:07 am

“And apparently, there is some considerable variation in the time required to replace large transformers. The initial figures I read were on the scale of 3 years for one,”
That’s my understanding, too. You made a lot of good points in your post.

Reply to  TA
May 8, 2017 9:38 pm

Thanks. I very rarely get kudos here…

Reply to  otropogo
May 12, 2017 11:31 am

Another thing, that nobody has mentioned, since the Sun has gone almost completely silent, Earth’s protection against a CME is getting weaker. It won’t take a Carrington Level event to cause the same amount of damage. So, a Carrington Level event would be even worse now, then it was then.

Reply to  otropogo
May 12, 2017 2:12 pm

otropogo: “The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that a) there are no spares, and b) no one presently manufactures such transformers in North America.”
I would suggest you subscribe to a few industry ‘trade press’ publications. You’re NOT going see this in ‘pop’ press.
On a more serious note, the industry HAS been working to mitigate the effects of GICs (Ground Induced Currents due to geo-magnetic storms) through the instillation of protective devices such as DC blocking capacitors in-line with the loing transmission line side of the plant/substation transformers.
BUT, you won;t read that in your local daily newspaper OR TeeVee station …

May 12, 2017 1:01 pm

re: “a single Carrington event can ruin your whole day, er, life” department”
and: “The Senate unanimously passed a bill May 2 intended to support space weather research and planning to protect critical infrastructure from solar storms.”
We’ve BEEN down this road a little while back as to WHAT plans are in place when these events are about to occur. Does ANYBODY WITH A MIND remember the procedure I posted that PJM executes WHEN an event is imminent?
(Probably not.)

May 12, 2017 1:06 pm

re: overblown EMP concerns
See the paper by Dr. Rabinowitz at the EPRI on EMP.
Abstract – This paper primarily considers the potential effects of a single high-altitude nuclear burst on the U.S. power grid. A comparison is made between EMP and natural phenomena such as lightning. This paper concludes that EMP is no more harmful to the power grid than its counterparts in nature. An upper limit of the electric field of the very fast, high-amplitude EMP is derived from first principles. The resulting values are significantly lower than the commonly presented values. Additional calculations show that the ionization produced by a nuclear burst severely attenuates the EMP.

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