Saturday, November 7, 2015

Risk: A Single Extreme Solar Storm Could Cost $2 Trillion

It's sort of a big deal.
From Business Insider, Nov. 6:

The White House is prepping for a single weather event that could cost $2 trillion in damage
To our electronic way of life, the sun is a formidable foe, and the White House is taking protective action against it.
On October 29, the White House's National Science and Technology Council released its strategic plan to prepare for an extreme weather event in space that could destroy satellites, spacecraft, and vital telecommunications systems.
Many of these electrical systems depend on one another, which is a recipe for disaster.
"These critical infrastructures make up a diverse, complex, interdependent system of systems in which a failure of one could cascade to another," the NSTC reported in its plan.

A $2 trillion gamble
Every second, the sun shoots bursts of charged subatomic particles, in the form of solar wind, into space at speeds of 1 million mph.
The solar wind typically is weak enough that Earth's magnetic field deflects most of it, as in the NASA illustration below:
If an especially powerful barrage heads our way, however, it could easily penetrate our magnetic field, fry our electric power systems, and kick us back into the dark ages — all within a matter of hours.

Canada got a minor taste of this back in 1989 when a powerful surge caused the collapse of Hydro-Québec's electricity-transmission system for nine hours. If the storm had been stronger, it might have wiped out a lot more than just Québec's electrical transmission.

Though a doomsday scenario like this hasn't happened yet, experts estimated in 2008 that a single monster solar surge could cause up to $2 trillion in economic damage....MORE

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"Who Turned Out the Lights? The Coming Mega Sun Storm"
May 2014
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Feb. 2014
"Catastrophic Solar Storm Inevitable, Insurers Warn"
May 2012
"1859's 'Great Auroral Storm'—the week the Sun touched the earth
March 2012
1 in 8 Chance of Civilization Destroying Solar Megastorm by 2020