solar superstorms

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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Sunspot Region 2205 Week Away From ‘Perfect Position To Do The Most Damage’ To Earth

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know I blog about severe space weather from time to time. Here’s something I came across on Bloomberg.com today that might interest a number of you. Brian Sullivan reported:

Those Sunspots Approaching Earth Could Bring Blackouts

A new group of sunspots that has come into view of Earth has the attention of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center.

The area, referred to as 2205, spat out an x-ray flare that produced a moderate radio blackout today, according to the center’s website. Earlier this week, it let loose several coronal mass ejections, explosions of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere that can knock out power grids and disrupt navigational systems.

Most of the material in today’s flare, along with the earlier eruptions, was pointed away from Earth, thus sparing the planet severe storms…

Here’s what really grabbed my attention though. Sullivan added:

The sunspots that are now becoming visible will take about two weeks to traverse the side of the sun pointed at the Earth, [Forecast Office Lead Robert] Rutledge said. In about a week, the system will be in perfect position to do the most damage, he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The potential economic costs associated with such solar storms are staggering. Consider this recent estimate from the FOX News website back in March:

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

Check out the entire article on Bloomberg.com here.

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

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 6 Nov. 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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Dangerous Solar Storms Coming As Current Cycle Wanes?

“Though the sun is currently in the peak year of its 11-year solar weather cycle, our closest star has been rather quiet over all, scientists say.

This year’s solar maximum is shaping up to be the weakest in 100 years…”

-SPACE.com, July 12, 2013

“This is the height of the 11-year solar cycle, the so-called solar maximum. The face of the Sun should be pockmarked with sunspots, and cataclysmic explosions of X-rays and particles should be whizzing off every which way.

Instead, the Sun has been tranquil, almost spotless…”

The New York Times website, September 23, 2013

I have this feeling that many of those concerned about a dangerous solar maximum (normal period of greatest solar activity in an 11-year “solar cycle” of the Sun) and Solar Cycle 24 are ready to call it a day.

I’m not sure we’re out of the woods quite yet though when it comes to threatening space weather.

From the website of Boulder, Colorado-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a consortium of more than 100 member colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences, earlier today:

ON THE WATCH FOR SOLAR SUPERSTORMS

As the current solar cycle winds down, the risk of big storms goes up

Don’t write off this solar cycle just yet. Even though the current peak in the 11-year cycle of sunspot activity is on the weak side, the Sun might still produce a major storm at any point, spewing plasma that could disrupt power grids and satellite communications. What’s more, the waning part of the solar cycle—which we’ll experience during the latter part of this decade— is actually when the most dangerous storms are most likely.

NCAR solar physicist Scott McIntosh is raising awareness. He gave a talk at the American Meteorological Society’s 2014 annual meeting on how and why solar storms tend to cluster on either side of the solar activity cycle, with the very biggest tending to occur as the cycle recedes

(Editor’s note: Bold in body text added for emphasis)

This is the first time I’ve heard of such an increased risk in dangerous space storms as a solar cycle wraps up. If I come across more material on this phenomenon, I’ll share it with readers.

In the meantime, you can read that entire piece on the UCAR website here.

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

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July 2012, 2013 Solar Superstorms Could Have Resulted In Technological Disasters On Earth

Back on December 11, 2013, I blogged about a solar “superstorm” that almost pummeled the Earth in July 2012. A December 9 press release from University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said:

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Well, there’s been more analysis of that July 2012 CME event recently. From the FOX News website yesterday:

Earth dodged one of the most massive magnetic solar bursts ever on July 23, 2012, scientists with the University of California, Berkeley revealed on Wednesday — saving the planet from widespread havoc.

“Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,” UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann said in a press release.

The 2012 massive magnetic cloud sped through space at over 1,200 miles per second, four times faster than a typical burst of solar power.

According to researchers, had the quick succession of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)– the most intense kind of solar eruptions — come nine days earlier, they would have hit Earth, potentially disabled satellites and GPS, and even affected the electrical grid.

A study from last year revealed that a solar storm like the one Earth narrowly avoided could have cost up to $2.6 trillion in damages. A similar event in March 1989 caused Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid to collapse and left six million people with no electricity for nine hours.

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Another potential technological disaster was narrowly avoided just a year later in July 2013. I wrote on August 1:

Here’s something you probably won’t hear in the mainstream media:

The Earth just missed being hit by a coronal mass ejection two weeks ago

Paul Bedard reported in the “Washington Secrets” section of the Washington Examiner website last night:

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

“The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m guessing solar superstorms don’t really register that much on the radar of most Americans. However, seeing how technologically dependent our society is these days, the potential effects of coronal mass ejections worry me considerably, and have so for some time.

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

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 20 Mar. 2014.

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Resource Of The Week- TESIS Geomagnetic Activity Forecast

You may recall that I blogged the other day about a geomagnetic storm heading in the direction of Earth.

Well, I didn’t know that the Sun fired off another solar storm at our planet Wednesday until this morning.

From Tariq Malik, managing editor of SPACE.com, Thursday evening:

The sun fired off an intense solar storm at Earth Wednesday (Aug. 21) — the second in two days — hurtling billions of tons of charged particles at our planet…

The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, occurred yesterday at 1:24 a.m. EDT (0524 GMT) and sent charged particles streaking outward at 380 miles per second. That’s just over 1.3 million mph (2.2 million km/h). The solar fallout from the sun storm is expected to reach Earth within the next three days.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this storm shouldn’t pose a threat to humans on Earth.

Late this afternoon, I thought to myself, “I wonder if there’s some resource out there that tracks severe space weather and attempts to forecast the resulting geomagnetic storms affecting Earth?”

Why would I be interested in something like that?

Back on August 16, 2011, I blogged about the potential consequences of a wicked solar storm. According to one estimate, a severe one could cause $1 trillion to $2 trillion in losses the first year, and take 4 to 10 years to fully recover from.

Personally, I suspect the carnage would be worse.

Getting to work, I queried “space geomagnetic storm forecast” on an Internet search engine and came across something called “TESIS.” From their website:

The TESIS is a set of solar imaging instruments developed by the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, and launched aboard the Russian spacecraft CORONAS-PHOTON in January 30, 2009. The main goal of the TESIS is to provide complex observations of solar active phenomena from the transition region to the inner and outer solar corona with high spatial, spectral and temporal resolution in the EUV and Soft X-ray spectral bands.

The TESIS includes five unique space instruments to observe the inner and outer solar corona from 0.2 to 4 solar radii in spectral band 290-320 A. With the advanced capabilities of its instruments, the TESIS will help better understand the physics of solar flares and high-energy phenomena and provide new data on parameters of solar plasma in the temperature range 105- 107 K.

The TESIS experiment started in the deep minimun between the 23rd and the 24th cycles of solar activity and planned to continue through all the razing phase of new cycle till 2012-1013…

TESIS main tasks

-The study of mechanisms of solar wind generation and coronal heating.
-The development of methods for space weather forecasting.
-The study of the production and evolution of high-temperature plasmas in the corona.
-The analysis of processes of magnetic energy accumulation and release before and during flares.

Did you guys understand all that? I sure didn’t. And I’m a fan of astronomy.

The thing that counts is, the TESIS website has a page dedicated to “Geomagnetic Activity Forecast” under “The Sun Today” in the main menu.

For each calendar day, the following is provided:

-“24-hours forecast of magnetic storms”
-“27-days forecast of magnetic storms”
-“3-day forecast of solar activity”
-“27-days forecast of solar activity”

As it stands right now late Friday night:

-24-hour forecast of magnetic storms: “Magnetic disturbances are expected”
-27-day forecast of magnetic storms: Geomagnetic distrbances are expected on September 1, 11, and 12
-3-day forecast of solar activity: The probability of a “strong magnetic storm” reaches 10 percent on Sunday (with strong defined as level G3 or higher)
-27-day forecast of solar activity: Solar activity is expected on September 1, 11, and 12

(Editor’s note: According to the NOAA Space Weather Scale for Geomagnetic Storms, a level G3 storm could result in the following:

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 TESIS Geomagnetic Activity Forecast looks promising. The site correctly-predicted “geomagnetic disturbances” for both August 20 and 21. And as long as it remains up-and-running, I’ll try to make it a point to stop by the web site on a regular basis in an attempt to keep abreast of severe space weather coming the planet’s way.

You can view the forecast on the TESIS website here.

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

Source:

Malik, Tariq. “Sun Unleashes Another Solar Storm Aimed at Earth.” SPACE.com. 22 Aug. 2013. (http://www.space.com/22490-sun-unleashes-solar-storm-at-earth.html). 23 Aug. 2013.

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