Its the end of the world due to solar flares

Massive X6.9 class solar flare, August 9, 2011...

Well, not really, but I figured it would at least get your attention.

As I was stopping to get my coffee this morning, I was warned that there was something happening with the sun today that could affect our cell phones by the girl at the counter.  She said she didn’t know what it was but a previous customer had mentioned it to her.

I had said that we would be seeing massive solar storms caused by solar flares and that could interrupt or cause problems to communications, power, TV, etc.  She didn’t know what a solar storm or solar flare was so I went ahead and explained it.

Basically, a solar storm is caused by something happening on the sun that interferes with the earths magnetic fields.  Something like solar flares could cause that.  A solar flare is basically an ‘explosion’ of sorts when the radiation and electromagnetic fields are released from the sun at a high rate of speed.  Sort of like when you drop a marble into a tub of water.  The marble is the ‘something happening’ portion, the water that splashes up is the solar flare and the resulting waves are the solar storm.

Because almost every form of communication and system we use relies on some form of electricity or mode of wireless transportation, the magnetic energy that is heading our way will interfere with those forms of communications.  It’s not a guarantee that it will, but the size of these gives a high probability that it will happen.

Now, before all of the astrophysicists and scientists out there start hammering me and sending me flame mail (if it’ll get through because of the storm), this is the simplest of explanations.  There were children around as well so I wanted to explain it so that they may be able to understand it.

Now, let’s go into some detail here.

Let’s start by examining what solar flares and solar storms are.

From the Free Dictionary:

1) solar flare
A sudden eruption of magnetic energy released on or near the surface of the sun, usually associated with sunspots and accompanied by bursts of electromagnetic radiation and particles. Ultraviolet and x-ray radiation from solar flares often induce electromagnetic disturbances in the earth’s atmosphere.
2) solar flare
(Astronomy) a brief powerful eruption of particles and intense electromagnetic radiation from the sun’s surface, associated with sunspots and causing disturbances to radio communication on earth Sometimes shortened to flare See also solar wind
3) solar flare
A sudden eruption of hydrogen gas in the chromosphere of the Sun, usually associated with sunspots. Solar flares may last between several hours and several days, and have temperatures ranging from 20 to 100 million degrees K. The energy of a solar flare, which consists primarily of charged particles and x-rays, is comparable to tens of millions of hydrogen bombs, but is less than one-tenth the total energy emitted by the Sun every second. First observed in 1859, solar flares dramatically affect the Sun’s weather and the solar wind, and are correlated with the appearance of auroras on the Earth. See also prominence.

From the Free Dictionary:

Solar storm can refer to:
1) Solar flare – a large explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere
2) Coronal mass ejection (CME) – a massive burst of solar wind associated with solar flares
3) Geomagnetic storm – the interaction of the Sun’s outburst with Earth’s magnetic field Solar storm of 1859

Two of these solar flares happened on 6 March, 2012 around 1900 EST.  The class of flare is rated at X5.4 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.  The X-class storms are the strongest type of solar flares.

You may notice that I said 6 March.  Yes, it takes that long for something happening on the sun to arrive here at good old Terra Firma or Earth if you will.  These two flares sent forward a massive solar storm.  We should be seeing the biggest issues within the next 24 hours.  The last largest storm we had was in December of 2006.  Some of the things that we could experience are:

  • (If we still used them) Telegraphs may not need a battery to send messages down the line
  • Magnetic field fluctuations near the ground could induce currents to flow in wires in long telegraph lines and/or power/cable/telephone lines (fiber not affected this way).
  • Interruptions of land line and cellular or wireless based phone service
  • Disruption in electrical service
  • Power transformer failures and/or explosions
  • Large swings in power line voltages
  • Long uninterrupted segments of oil and natural gas pipelines may experience enhanced corrosion
  • Sattelite interruption (communications, media, etc)
  • Global Positioning Systems may not work correctly
  • ‘Phantom switches’ where data bits are switched from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1.  (may or may not happen individually or in groups)
  • Tidal flows may be changed
  • Magnetic media ‘could’ be erased (not likely unless it’s directly out in the open in a location where geomagnetical interference is greates).
  • Items could be destroyed due to the electromagnetic flux (similar to an EMP release from a nuclear weapon)
  • Airlines may be interrupted (which is why some flights may be cancelled)

These are only a few of the things that could be affected.  I stress the world could as it’s never known exactly what will happen.  It may not be a bad idea to get a gallon or two of water maybe some more fire for your wood stove or pull out an extra blanket or two.  This is NOT armageddon, it’s NOT the end of the world, but it wouldn’t hurt to always be prepared anyhow.

Electric companies, power centers, utility companies and other governmental agencies are on a heightened awareness due to the upcoming solar storm.

Most likely what’s going to happen here is:

  • Some cell phone calls will be dropped
  • Bad reception with wireless internet
  • WiFi signals will be reduced
  • Possibly a few power outages in some of the more remote areas
  • GPS may not function correctly
  • Telephone calls over land lines will not be as good as they usually are
  • Increased dropped cell phone calls
  • Increase in tin foil hat wearing people…

So in essence, worst case scenario, we could be looking at a nationwide blackout in either communication, electricity, etc.  I don’t personally see that happening however as (hopefully) most of the areas are already shielding against similar events.  Maybe not successfully, but there are things in place that would allow us to get back up and running in a short amount of time.  As long as it’s not a total hit to the system.

So what do you think, did I explain this good enough, or did I do it incorrectly?  Let me know in the comments.

Information gathered from:

Fox News: – Sun fires off 2 huge solar flares, could impact weather on Earth

The Free Dictionary: –

NASA.Gov – Solar Storms: The Silent Menace

~ by Normanomicon on March 8, 2012.

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