When we consider the power of the sun, we may think of the potential for solar power and how harvesting such energy could benefit us and the planet. And apart from sunburns, we may not think of downside of powerful solar energy quite so often.
The fact is, the Sun has incredible potential to cause disaster here on Earth and there’s not really that much we can do to prevent it. We can, however, improve our ability to detect solar forces and the way we prepare for and recover from them. That’s the aim of the White House’s National Science and Technology Council, NASA, NOAA, and other organizations as they prep for massive solar storms that could hit us in the very near future.
Past And Future Events Of Immense Force
Late last month, The National Science and Technology Council released a strategic plan to prepare for dangerous space weather events. Often called solar storms, the sun sometimes releases immense eruptions of magnetized plasma, which results in massive geomagnetic forces that could obliterate satellites, spacecraft, and completely devastate our interconnected power grids.
An especially notable event was recorded in 1859—decades before its origin and effects could be fully understood. Called the Carrington Event, a massive solar flare made flush of white light race across the globe. It was so bright that people around the world mistook it for sunrise.
The geomagnetic energy resulted in a disruption of telegraph systems across the Northern Hemisphere, and even caused some telegraph operators to experience electric shocks. We’ve seen storms of similar power in recent years, like the solar storm of 2012, however that force missed the Earth by about nine days—but not without affecting the STERO-A solar observatory.
A Plan For Detection, Response, And Recovery
If a solar storm were to hit the Earth, we could see debilitating damage to our electrical infrastructure that would take months, or even years, to recover from and amount to trillions of dollars in damage. The newly released National Space Weather Action Plan is essentially a road map to help the U.S. navigate such an occurrence. The plan combines elements of science and homeland security to help make essential systems and networks less vulnerable to geomagnetic eruptions.
It also seeks to develop national systems for research and response, so that we can better detect solar storms before they happen and recovery for their effects more efficiently. The success of this approach may depend greatly on the partnerships between governments, emergency response bodies, academic and science organizations, and private companies, which the plan aims to promote. As NASA predicts there’s a 12 percent chance the earth could be hit by a major solar storm within the next decade, it would seem that a solid plan can’t come soon enough.
Do you think your company or industry could possibly contribute to a better solar storm warning system and recovery plan? Tell us what you think about this issue in the comments.