Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Sun Also Flares

And now for something completely different -- sort of.  Maybe the Mormons are right -- stockpile enough supplies to survive for a year independently. If a solar flare of the magnitude of the "Carrington Event" were to occur tomorrow, the world would be in Serious Trouble ...

Cliff May : The Sun Also Flares -
The strongest solar storm on record is the Carrington Event of 1859, named after Richard Carrington, an astronomer who witnessed the super solar flare that set off the event as he was projecting an image of the sun on a white screen. In those days, of course, there was nothing much to damage. A high-intensity burst of electro-magnetic energy shot through telegraph lines, disrupting communications, shocking technicians and setting their papers on fire. Northern Lights were visible as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. But otherwise life went on as normal.

The same would not be true were a solar storm of similar magnitude to erupt today. Instead, the infrastructure we depend on would be wiped out. Most of us would not adapt well to this sudden return to a pre-industrial age.

How likely is a repeat of the Carrington Event? Scientists say it is not only possible -- it is inevitable. What they don't know is when. The best estimates are that super solar storms occur once every 100 years - which means we are 50 years overdue.

Both the Wikipedia page and the NASA page on the Carrington Event suggest that such events are twice-a-millenium events, or once every 500 years, not once a century according to the "report". I guess it's just another life-gamble: should I worry about surviving a once-in-10-lifetimes event or should I just live like a grasshopper?

No comments:

Post a Comment