Magnetic storms can leave us without technology and energy

Surely you’ve heard about magnetic storms or solar storms. On the surface of the sun there are giant eruptions that send charged particles into space. When these particles come into contact with the magnetic field of the Earth, this can have dangerous consequences. A magnetic storm of sufficient strength can disable all modern technologies that we rely on every day.

The strongest solar storms can cause wave effects in our energy supply systems, heating up and even the destruction of our entire energy infrastructure. It seems that all this is only in theory, but this has happened in the past. The most dangerous storms are caused by ejections of the coronal mass. Scientists can not say exactly what causes them, they can not predict their appearance, and they will not know about their appearance before 8 minutes. That’s the amount of time it takes to pass a signal from the sun to the Earth.

A cloud of charged particles can be seen on the path from the sun to the Earth for a period of 17 to 36 hours before they reach our planet. The simulation process is started, which allows to predict which part of the Earth the storm will affect. This is a very important process, since disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic balance can affect the operation of power supply systems, and the operation of orbiting satellites. Electromagnetism underlies many modern technologies.

According to astrophysicist Scott Mackintosh from the observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the US is so concerned about the influence of magnetic storms that the plan for building supertransformers capable of withstanding them is growing very aggressively.

In fact, it would be very unpleasant to remain without electricity for some long time, because of an event that we can not prevent and predict fairly quickly. Alas, all that the observatories offer today is the timely shutdown of the electric power supply for the time of storms’ impact. Not everyone can know about this, but the storms are fixed monthly. Simply, this information is not disclosed particularly widely.


One of the most notorious storms was the outbreak of Carrington in 1859. It has disabled telegraph lines around the world. If such an outbreak happened today, all modern energy would be at risk. Only in the first year of recovery would it take $ 2 trillion. But in 2012, the storm, reminiscent of its strength Carrington, barely passed the Earth. If then the eruption occurred a week earlier, our planet would have been hit.

There were other outbreaks that were well remembered. In 1989, 6 million people in Quebec were left without energy and communications. In October and November 2003, 17 outbreaks occurred immediately. The planes were redirected, spacecraft devices were switched off, and Sweden was without energy for about an hour.

When to wait for magnetic storms

As already mentioned above, the activity of the sun remains unsolved. We only know that the sun works on an 11-year cycle of high and low activity. At the same time, with every cycle the sun becomes quieter. However, a quiet sun is not necessarily a calm sun. It is during periods of weak activity that the greatest storms occur.

It is difficult to say what to expect. In 2014, physicist Pete Riley calculated the chances of meeting a major storm, similar to Carrington, in the next decade. They are 12 percent. This is more than one chance out of ten.

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