solar flares

The Economist Magazine Investigates Preppers

“Some Americans find survivalists sinister. After Adam Lanza shot 26 people in a school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, the media made much of the fact that his mother was a gun-stockpiling prepper. Yet there is no evidence that preppers in general are more dangerous than their compatriots. On the contrary, when natural disasters strike, it is useful to have neighbours who know how to stormproof a house and have bandages to spare.”

The Economist website, December 17, 2014

Late this morning, I stumbled on an article on The Economist website about preppers. I just finished reading “Preparing for the apocalypse: I will survive,” and thought I’d blog about it a little. The author (couldn’t find a name attached with the piece for some reason) did a pretty good job writing about preppers/survivalists, not falling victim to the usual stereotypes/generalizing echoed in a comment on the article. From “walrusandthecarpenter”:

Preppers are people who are unhappy with their life and can’t wait for the end of the world to come and the tables to turn. They are excited for it to happen.

Me? I like my smartphone. I have a first aid kit though.

“I like my smartphone.” What a goof.

Like I was saying, the author did a pretty good job (points deducted for trying to link those Westboro folks to preppers) with the material. I found what James Wesley, Rawles of SurvivalBlog.com-fame had to say particularly interesting. From the article:

So how might TEOTWAWKI come about? The biggest threat, says Mr Rawles, is a huge solar flare. The last big one, in 1859, known as the “Carrington Event”, disabled telegraph lines. A similar disaster today would “fry the circuitry” of electronic devices and take out the power grid “from end to end”. It would take years to reactivate. Perhaps 60% of the American population could die, predicts Mr Rawles…

I’ve seen some put that die-off figure at 90 percent.

There was also this about present-day preppers:

Survivalists vary politically—just as they are dispersed geographically—and their views colour their apocalyptic imaginings. Many are conservatives, worried about crime, terrorism and hyperinflation and sure that the state cannot be relied upon to protect ordinary citizens. But a fair number are environmentalists, convinced that the planet can only take so much abuse before it becomes uninhabitable. The movement is broad enough to encompass anyone who suspects that disaster is looming, for any reason. It used to be mostly “Bible-believing Christian conservatives”, says Mr Rawles, “But now we have a lot of alfalfa-munching Birkenstock-wearing leftists.” He adds: “The more the better.”

One more reason for me not to bash specific political ideologies/parties- except when they really ask for it, of course.

(Editor’s note: Any former readers of Boom2Bust.com out there remember when I used to savage “Dubya” and Hank Paulson? Thinking of that reminds me this giant economic mess belongs to both sides of the political aisle.)

Jason Charles, a New York firefighter of Doomsday Preppers-fame (blogged about here), is also featured in the piece.

You can read the well-written article in its entirety on The Economist website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Largest Sunspot In 24 Years Pointed At Earth

There’s the potential for severe space weather directed at Earth in the coming days. Calla Cofield reported on the Space.com website this morning:

The largest sunspot to appear on Earth’s nearest star in more than two decades is once again pointed at the planet, and it will likely kick-start solar storms, NASA scientists say.

The massive sunspot, previously known as Active Region 12192, was turned toward Earth in October and early November, but rotated out of view. While it was on the Earth-facing side of the sun, the sunspot did not produce any coronal mass ejections — hot bursts of material ejected into space at 4 million mph (6.4 million km/h) — which have the potential to damage satellites and power grids. Now the active region has rotated back around to face Earth again, and although the sunspot has shrunk in size, it will likely be disruptive, NASA scientist Holly Gilbert told Space.com during a video interview about the massive sunspot…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I watched that video interview with Dr. Gilbert about AR 122090 (formerly AR 12192). From the exchange between Gilbert and Cofield:

COFIELD: So why should we pay attention to sunspots?
GILBERT: Sunspots are the regions where space weather is born. Basically, where solar flares originate and these storms called coronal mass ejections, where tons of billions of material is being blown- sometimes towards the Earth- at over 4 million miles an hour. This can affect satellites, our technology. It can cause power grid outages…
COFIELD: Are you able to predict what are the odds of this sunspot having a major solar ejection or coronal mass ejection?
GILBERT: We’re not at the point at predicting when it will happen, but we have a good idea based on the structure of that magnetic field at the sunspot that it’s very possible that it will create some midlevel flares right now. When it was on the side of the Sun facing us a few weeks ago before it rotated around, it actually led to six massive solar flares and multiple smaller flares. So we know that based on the size and the complexity of the magnetic field that there’s potential for these flares to occur.

The chief of the Solar Physics Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center added:

The coronal mass ejections did not occur along with those large solar flares. This time around, it’s more likely to have some coronal mass ejections associated with it even though the flares themselves might be smaller.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Massive Sunspot Returns- What’s the Solar Forecast?”
Space.com Video

Back on July 23, the NASA Science News website discussed the potential damage from a coronal mass ejection as strong as the infamous Carrington Event of 1859. From the article:

A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

No mention of what that could mean for human life in the affected region of the planet…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Cofield, Calla. “Monster Sunspot May Unleash Powerful Solar Flares (Video).” Space.com. 25 Nov. 2014. (http://www.space.com/27834-monster-sunspot-solar-flares-video.html). 25 Nov. 2014.

Phillips, Tony. “Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012” NASA Science News. 23 July 2014. (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/23jul_superstorm/). 25 July 2014.

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Latest On Strong Geomagnetic Storm Possibly Hitting Earth

Last night I blogged about the Sun unleashing an X-class solar flare in the direction of our planet, and the potential for a strong geomagnetic storm due to a “likely” coronal mass ejection (CME) accompanying the flare.

Here’s the latest from the NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center about the likelihood of severe space weather in the coming days. From their website this morning:

2014-09-11 05:01 UTC A Pair of CMEs

G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms remain in the forecast for September 12th as a result of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the R1 (Minor) solar flare observed on the 9th. The latest WSA-Enlil model run has the CME associated with yesterday’s R3 (Strong) solar flare arriving mid to late day on that same day. A G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch has been issued for September 13th due to the combined influence of these two events with G1 (Minor) storming anticipated to continue into September 14th. In addition, the S1 (Minor) solar radiation storm that is in progress as a result of the eruption yesterday is expected to persist for the next few days. Keep in mind that the forecast periods listed are in Universal Time so aurora watchers in the northern U.S. should be looking for possible activity both Thursday and Friday nights. Stay tuned for updates…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okay, so the SWPC is predicting “G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms” for Friday, September 12, and issuing a “G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch” for Saturday, September 13.

According to the “NOAA Space Weather Scales” web page under “NOAA Space Weather Scale for Geomagnetic Storms,” G2 (“Moderate”) storms are characterized by the following:

Power systems: high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage.

Spacecraft operations: corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control; possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions.

Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho (typically 55° geomagnetic lat.)**.

As for G3 (“Strong”) geomagnetic storms:

Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices.

Spacecraft operations: surface charging may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.)**.

The damage from a G2 or G3 geomagnetic storm doesn’t appear to be too significant. G4 (“Severe”) geomagnetic storm events look like the ones we should be worried about:

Power systems: possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid…

The folks over at the Space Weather Prediction Center seem to think electrical grids aren’t in any real danger from this latest bout of severe space weather. Doyle Rice reported on the USA Today website this morning:

Major disruptions are not expected, even though the flare was classified as an “X-class” flare, which is at the high end of the solar flare scale. Wednesday’s flare followed a weaker flare late Monday.

“We expect geomagnetic storm levels in the G2 (moderate) and G3 (strong) range,” said NOAA space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh.

“G2-G3 geomagnetic storms can cause some problems for the (power) grid but are typically very manageable,” Murtagh said in an e-mail Thursday morning. “We may also see some anomalies with satellites so satellite operators around the world have been notified. And problems with the accuracy of GPS have been observed with this level of storming.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rice added later:

The worst of the energetic particles streaming from the sun likely will miss Earth this time…

Did the Earth just “dodge a bullet” from the Sun? Guess we’ll know for sure after the weekend.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Rice, Doyle. “Solar storm heading for Earth.” USA Today. 11 Sep. 2014. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/09/10/solar-flare-space-weather/15415827/). 11 Sep. 2014.

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Strong Geomagnetic Storm To Hit Earth In Coming Days?

Survival And Prosperity readers across the world- Earth was in the crosshairs of a powerful X-class solar flare earlier today. USA Today’s Doyle Rice reported this evening:

A solar flare that launched off the sun Wednesday afternoon could wreak havoc with communications systems and power systems on the Earth, as well as with satellites in orbit, in coming days.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the flare already “caused impacts to high-frequency radio communications on Earth today,” according to NOAA. “A coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with this event is likely, but further analysis is necessary to determine whether it will produce geomagnetic storming on Earth.”…

If a CME occurred, Earth’s magnetosphere will likely be disturbed and a geomagnetic storm could result in the next few days, NOAA reports…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rice added:

Space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh said that scientists will know more about when and where the impacts will be when more data comes in later Wednesday and early Thursday…

I visited the Space Weather Prediction Center website, and here’s their latest on the event:

2014-09-10 23:18 UTC Recent R3 Solar Flare

Active Region 2158, now near center disk, produced a X1 (NOAA Scale R3 – Strong) solar flare today at 10/1745 UTC (Sep 10th at 01:45pm EDT). Impacts to HF radio communications on the daylight side of Earth lasted for a little more than an hour.

Initial information suggests that CME is likely associated with this event, however, further analysis is underway at this time…

Standby for more details.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, regular blog readers might remember the TESIS Geomagnetic Activity Forecast I named “Resource Of The Week” back on August 24, 2013. In their “3-day forecast of solar activity,” the Russians are predicting a 1 percent “probability of a strong magnetic storm” Thursday, a 20 percent probability of a strong magnetic storm Friday, and a 5 percent probability Saturday.

Time and time again I’ve blogged about the threat from severe space weather. This latest bout has the potential to be real bad according to what I’ve been reading.

I plan on checking back with the Space Weather Prediction Center (website) later tonight or tomorrow if necessary to find out the results of their “further analysis.”

I suggest you might want to do the same.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Rice, Doyle. “Solar Storm Heading for Earth.” WLTX19.com. 10 Sep. 2014. (http://www.wltx.com/story/tech/science/2014/09/10/solar-storm-heading-for-earth/15418653/). 10 Sep. 2014.

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Resource Of The Week: Twotsi.com Space Weather Warning Service

Last summer, while seeking some resource out there that tracks severe space weather and attempts to forecast the resulting geomagnetic storms affecting Earth, I came across the Russian-based TESIS Geomagnetic Activity Forecast (blogged about here).

Recently, I stumbled on a similar resource called the Twotsi.com Space Weather Warning Service. Billed as “Free Solar Flare and Magnetic Storm Warnings,” their website says:

This service is pretty reliable since it uses data from the US Government Noaa service forecast updated daily, and the report updated 3 hourly so its nearly real time. If they go down due to a solar flare its too late!

We here at Twotsi have got rather concerned with the statements that NASA made in June 2011 regarding their inability to predict major solar events, and their issuing of a video to their employees on preparing for an emergency. We looked to see if we could find a free Alert service that would give timely warnings of an event but could not do so, so we found where the info was online and came up with a way to produce a system backed by the might of NASA and Noaa. Here it is…

The free alert service utilizes e-mail, and each alert message:

Will have a full synopsis of what is currently occurring and what is expected to occur in the next 24 hours. This includes information on ongoing and predicted Geo Magnetic Storms, Solar Radiation Storms (can affect GPS), and Radio Blackout events. This will also be accompanied by the latest 3 day forecast…

According to the website, users can set the level of alert to start receiving messages from, and can unsubscribe from the service whenever they like. A minimum of one e-mail every thirty days is sent to users “to assure you that the service is still alive and kicking.

Interesting resource- which I might have to sign up for.

The Twotsi.com Space Weather Warning Service website can be found here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: The Twotsi.com Space Weather Warning Service is gone last I checked)

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Sun Fires Off More ‘X-Class’ Solar Flares

The Sun keeps churning out big solar flares these days. Karen C. Fox from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported on the NASA website earlier today:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare that peaked at 1:14 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.1 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum conditions…

This is the seventh significant flare since Oct. 23, 2013, with the largest being an X3.3 on Nov. 5, 2013.

I’m not too concerned about solar flares as I am coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Ms. Fox pointed out back in a May 13 piece on the NASA website:

Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards. Another phenomenon produced by the sun could be even more disruptive. Known as a coronal mass ejection or CME these solar explosions propel bursts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth’s atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids. A CME’s particles can also collide with crucial electronics onboard a satellite and disrupt its systems.

Fried electrical grids. Not good.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Fox, Karen C. “Veteran’s Day Solar Flare.” NASA. 10 Nov. 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0). 10 Nov. 2013.

Fox, Karen C. “Impacts of Strong Solar Flares.” NASA. 13 May 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html). 10 Nov. 2013.

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Sun Fires Off 24 M-Class And 4 Powerful X-Class Solar Flares Since October 23

Whoa! The Sun is really acting up these days. Last Monday, I blogged about the Sun emitting a third X-Class solar flare in three days, with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection to boot. And just yesterday, the Daily Mail (UK) reported two dozen M-Class and four X-Class flares have been fired off since October 23. From the British newspaper’s website:

More than two dozen solar flares have erupted from the Sun in the past seven days, catapulting radiation towards the Earth that could potentially play havoc with global communications.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued four radio blackout warnings in the past two days after solar weather suddenly turned turbulent…

Since October 23 the Sun has let loose with 24 medium-strength M-class solar flares, and four X-class flares – the most powerful kind…

The recent solar flare activity has also been accompanied by several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), say Nasa officials.

Coronal mass ejections are worrisome and strong ones pose a threat to satellite communications and electrical grids. I blogged about the phenomena all the way back in August 2011. And on August 1, 2013, I noted how a Carrington-class CME recently crossed the Earth’s orbit, narrowly missing us.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Sun sends 28 solar flares erupting through space in a week… and there may be more on the way.” Daily Mail. 2 Nov. 2013. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2484851/Sun-sends-28-solar-flares-erupting-space-week–way.html). 3 Nov. 2013.

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