WASHINGTON – The sun is about to flip its magnetic field, at the peak of its 11-year solar cycle or at the half-way point of what scientists call a solar maximum – when it is at its most violent in terms of solar flares and the Earth is most vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse.
That’s the surge of sun energy that scientists say could in an instant return the developed world to an agrarian society, essentially without any electronics, and leave millions dead.
This mid-way point is expected in about four months – a December/January time frame – putting Earth in a position of greatest vulnerability even as the solar maximum diminishes well into 2014.
Scientists for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, have said the sun will reach its most intense period this year and well into next.
Others have suggested that even until 2020 Earth still could be exposed to solar flares that if they hit Earth directly could knock out the U.S. national grid system and fry electronic components and automated control systems not only in the U.S. but in other industrialized countries.
“It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete Read more…
It was in January 1994 that two Canadian telecommunications satellites blanked out during a major sunburst while in geosynchronous orbit and communications were disrupted nationwide.
While recovery occurred after only a few hours on the first satellite, it took some six months and more than $70 million to recover the second satellite.
Then in January 2005, some 26 United Airlines flights had to be diverted during a space weather storm to non-polar routes – to avoid the prospect of high frequency radio blackouts.
Added were landings and takeoffs, flight time and other factors that elevated fuel consumption and costs. Each route change ended up costing more than $100,000.
Then in February 2011, there was a sun eruption experts described as the largest solar flare in four years. It caused interference in radio communications and global positioning system signals for aircraft traveling long-distances.
While it was a modest outburst, experts say it signaled the beginning of an upcoming Read more…