NASA: Civilization Was Almost Wiped Out In July 2012
The danger to modern civilization posed by solar flares is starting to get real attention well beyond prepper circles. Witness this Washington Post article and Hacker News thread on a recent NASA report on the massive July 2012 solar flare that missed earth by a week.
First, the NASA report:
“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” says Baker. “The only difference is, it missed.”
In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. published a paper in Space Weather entitled “On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events.” In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years. By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.
The answer: 12%.
“Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct,” says Riley. “It is a sobering figure.”
…Says Baker, “we need to be prepared.”
The big question that has been going around in prepper circles for years is, how bad will it really be? There the answer ranges from TEOTWAWKI to “really bad”. In this respect, a recent Lloyd’s of London Insurance report on the threat of a solar superstorm is probably a good place to start. I’m going to quote a Hacker News user’s whole comment, because it contains links to the report and a summary:
For those interested in an in-depth analysis of the risk, Lloyd’s insurance produced a detailed report last year looking at this issue:
Solar Storm Risk to the North American Electric Grid [PDF]
Some key points:
Weighted by population, the highest risk of storm-induced power outages in the US is along the Atlantic corridor between Washington D.C. and New York City.
The total U.S. population at risk of extended power outage from a Carrington-level [estimated to occur every ~150 years] storm is between 20-40 million, with durations of 16 days to 1-2 years.
The wide variation of expected duration is is dependent on the number of transformers destroyed:
If spares are readily available, the total transportation and setup time for a large power transformer can range from a few weeks to months depending on distance and logistical issues. If new transformers need to be ordered, the lead-time is estimated to be between 5-12 months for domestic suppliers, and 6-12 months for international suppliers.
The Lloyd’s scenario of roughly 10 percent of North America without power for months or years is on the “downright rosy” end of the spectrum. There’s also no attempt made in the full report to assess the broader social impact of 40 million without power–mass migration out of the affected region of the country, the disruption or possible temporary shutdown of financial markets (if NYC is hit), civil unrest, and so on.
There’s also no discussion of the possibility that nuclear plants in the affected region would go full-blown Fukushima if they lost their connection to the grid.
People are rightfully concerned about getting blasted back to the 80’s–the 1880’s, but will power companies and the government actually wake up and spend the paltry few millions on the problem that it would take to protect our grid?
So if you needed another reason to start prepping, or a reminder to take your prepping seriously, there it is. Sobering stuff.