Interesting Science Fiction Take on this
Flare by Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas
A new analysis of data from NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) by Chinese and Berkeley helioboffins shows that a July 2012 solar storm of unprecedented size would have wiped out global electronic systems if it had occurred just nine days earlier. "Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the …
Then it's not.
While I don't think it's time to withdraw to a bunker in Montana I do think some (low key) contingency planning about this would be a good idea before planet Earth gets one of these pointed right at it.
Planning how to segment power grids, a few spare big transformers (for the electric arc furnaces needed to make more big transformers), backup to GPS ( not satellite based).
Sure, these things are necessary.
No, they're never going to get done.
Politicians are only concerned with building new infrastructure (when they get off their asses to do anything at all, that is.) That's what makes for good publicity and better chances of getting elected.
Reinforcing existing infrastructure is nowhere near as glamorous as building new, and if you're lucky you can hold it together just long enough for it to fall apart on your successor's watch. (Remember, even if it breaks three days after he takes office, it's still entirely his fault.)
And most frustratingly, in order to get things fixed, you need to raise public awareness. But if you do manage to stave off disaster, the ungrateful electorate will claim that there never was a threat in the first place, and that it was all a "hoax". (Prime example: Y2K IT fixes.)
BTW, how do you intend to create a non-satellite GPS that doesn’t cost umpteen trillions to implement and billions every year to run?
The map won't pinpoint your location and the compass is likely to go as haywire as the GPS constellation since it relies on magnetism. Heck, compasses tend to bork on lightning which is much more frequent.
PS. Interesting an event this catastrophic measures in nanotesla. Makes me wonder what would happen if we were hit by an event that measures in the microtesla (or worse, millitesla).
Why would a compass not read true during this nonsense? The Earth's magnetic field is still there and bending the harmful charged particle component of the flare away from us. 'Cos if it ain't, we have bigger problems than the GPS not working and not being able to tweet.
"A magnetic compass would not read true because every piece of ferrous metal would be putting out a magnetic field, that due to is close proximity to you vs the earth's poles, would throw off the compass."
Yes, but for how long? The GPS issue has to do with the long term effects of the destruction of the satellites in the path of the flare.
But once the flare has been swept past by the combined effects of the Sun's rotation and the orbital motion of the Earth, the magnetic field induced in these ferrous metal sources you cite would drop dramatically and the Earth's magnetic field would be able to re-assert itself over the local environment.
But furthermore, navigation by compass is really only an issue in places like deserts (where iron bearing mountains make a well-known mockery of mag compass readings) , plains (where the iron content is usually low) and the open sea (where the iron in question will be the hull of your own vessel), where you must navigate by dead reckoning in the absence of a real-time absolute fix on position (such as GPS).
Everywhere else you navigate by piloting - looking at things you know to be on the way to where you want to go and working from one to another until "there". In a car, these things are usually street signs, petrol stations and the like.
I'm not seeing the hurt here, compass wise.
Backup to GPS is a sextant. However in the middle of the day, the time to get a lock is a bit longer than GPS. I have seen some star trackers that will work during daylight hours, but they are not cheap, not small, and still unlikely to work with UK cloud cover.
More of an issue is that the Early warning system told us about it 1.5 years late; OK so it wasn't heading directly for us, so wasn't within the perimiter of the warning system; but that's just being pedantic.
'Planning how to segment power grids' Not a good idea.
In the event of one of these hitting, and the warning system is now in place, unlike in 2012, then the UK with its national grid will actually fare better than the US with its regionalised grid. On a large grid, you turn everything on to spread the load, on a regionalised grid you have to turn everything off.
"In the event of one of these hitting, and the warning system is now in place, unlike in 2012, then the UK with its national grid will actually fare better than the US with its regionalised grid. On a large grid, you turn everything on to spread the load, on a regionalised grid you have to turn everything off."
But the regions would appear to be several times the size of the UK. New York State is a bit bigger than England, and the Power Failure of '04 (said in a creaky miner 49er voice to add authenticity) showed how regionalized the grid is actually.
I sense a possible lack of understanding about the physical effects of such an event. In general, it will induce high voltages (and resultant high currents) in wires, particularly in long transmission lines. National grid or regional grid - makes little real difference; transformers connected to the grid at the time will almost certainly be disabled by the voltage surge induced in long transmission lines. What's needed is some warning and a method of very promptly disconnecting major equipment from the transmission grid. (Longer lines induce greater voltages; short lines induce much lower voltages.)
Well, it's your choice of course, but I have to point out that your tinfoil hat will act as a focus for the electromagnetic pulse and will in all likelihood heat to an estimated bajillion degrees (admittedly degrees Fahrenheit) doing considerable damage to the perm and noggin therein.
By fashioning the tinfoil hat into a cup shape and filling the receptacle with water, stock, chopped veg and meat you can improvise an ablative and have some stew for dinner after the flare.
"Glad I have a 2CV"
Petrol pumps won't be dispensing, nor EPOS terminals working. So unless you've got a way of filling up by magic, you've got one tank of gloating before your jalopy joins the more modern machines as street furniture. Looking on the bright side, all these useless cars and buses could provide new homes fro tramps and the homeless, solving the problem of rough sleeping.
OTOH the cars probably provide sufficient of a Faraday cage to protect their own electronics...
Well would probably get more than 1 tank as nobody else would be using the fuel and could grab fuel from abandoned cars littered about. They're not going to be using it. But apocolypse movies have shown me you get shot for your car, so i will probably not be driving so much anyway.
The 1859 storm, also known as the Carrington Event, after the British astronomer who recorded it, swept over the Earth at the end of August and is the largest recorded solar storm in history. The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba and telegraph systems burnt out across Europe and the US, in some cases shocking operators and continuing to send signals even when switched off.
On March 13, 1989 the entire province of Quebec, Canada suffered an electrical power blackout. Hundreds of blackouts occur in some part of North America every year. The Quebec Blackout was different, because this one was caused by a solar storm!
Carrington Event in 1859 was last major solar storm to significantly impact Earth. At that time, no electrical grid existed, no solid state electronics were in use, no satellite navigation or comms systems existed, etc. So...our best indication of the likely effects comes from observed damage to telegraph wires that existed in 1859. In general, they were extensively damaged, resulting in multiple fires and lots of destroyed wiring. Specific effects on a localized basis will probably vary, but certain things are highly likely on a widespread basis: long transmission lines will induce very large voltage surges that damage transformers, effectively disabling our power grids. Imagine society without electricity, but also without the less sophisticated ways of getting things done that electrical appliances have displaced. No pumps to distribute water in urban centers, or to remove sewage. No heating for many homes. No refrigeration to keep perishable foods fresh. Urban centers quickly (within a week?) become untenable without electrical power.
You know, I don't consider telegraph wires existing in 1859 to be a particularly great guide to what might happen today.
Wires get hot because your putting too much current over them, and I would assume that data cable in 1859 was less good at taking currant than CAT5. However, if we assume it was exactly identical then CAT5 could take what, about 25watts at 12v before starting to get hot or melting?
I can see that level being picked up, especially on long cable runs since we aren't talking high voltages here. However, I can't see a cable 2 inches thick used to carrying a thousand megawatts at 100-750 kv (ie; thousand volts) being melted. That's hundreds of thousands of times greater currant required to do any damage and transformers aren't exactly delicate little bits of microelectronics either. I can see why the crowd who ring us when they can't find the power button on the front of the PC would worry (or perhaps fantasise?) about all technology vanishing overnight, but I don't see why I should.
Oh, I'd imagine that the grid would go out of range and things would shutdown causing a blackout, but isn't that about the worst that's going to happen?
@Peter2 - Back then phone and telegraph wire was almost 1/8' tp 1/4" solid copper wire. It probably did TOO GOOD of a job conducting electricity. With such a giant web of wire emanating out from major populations centers, even back then, it would have been like a giant capacitor. I imagine it was the sudden discharge of so much EMP that would literally make things explode, just like a nuclear EMP. Now days, we use some kind of aluminum alloy for above ground carrying capacity, and it can take more, but it can gather more too! I'm not sure it wouldn't be just as bad or worse, unless certain emergency trips are in place - just this summer's sun spot activity has burned out our local electric infrastructure several times. We didn't even have a full load of air conditioning on the system yet!
Ironically fiber optic communications cable will be immune to this damage, but the power wires that travel with the fiber optic cable to power the repeaters inside the cable will probably be fried. Since these happen about every kilometer, you'd think they could service such points independently from the fiber cable. Also unfortunately we use such small solid state chip technology now that even a sneeze could blow the entire mobo on many devices. Modern cars would be out of commission but antique automobiles would be unaffected, especially since they are mostly stored indoors. Ham operators that are still using the old vacuum tube sets, will be immune to this especially if they disconnect the antenna before the event. But I doubt they could predict it. Civil Defense technology was developed way back in the 1950's to shield many systems, and but now we'd need automated sensors of some kind to disconnect things automatically. I don't see any movement toward that end. Maybe after our entire infrastructure gets fried they will finally find the money somehow to update the equipment to the new reality. Might as well if it is fried already! All this talk of a "SMART" grid may be the answer?
I think your missing a basic understanding of electronics and electrical transmission infrastructure, as well as the fact that a car is a sufficiently good Faraday cage to take lighting bolts (for which there is some great footage of on youtube) which discounts damage to cars IMO.
Also- frying a sensitive low voltage device from with higher voltage is easy with extra voltage as it's sensitive to single digit change. Frying things meant to take literally hundreds of thousands of volts with an extra few hundred or thousand volts is not as easy.
I'm not going to bother arguing with you in detail because it's generally pointless on the Intranet, but unless you show at least back of the envelope figures to support your claims then i'm going to continue to consider them illiterate scaremongering.
Yes, our AGR power stations can be shut down by a man in the basement opening a set of vavles to flood the core with boron covered balls.
Trashes the core and the station is completely borked as a result, but yes it can be shut down manually
The control rods are also on electro magnets as I rememebr , so no power to the core , the rods drop in and shut it down anyway
9 Days.. Forgetting where the suns rotation was pointing it for a sec 9 Days for us is about 9 degrees around our orbit Anyone any idea how many degrees wide the CMe was as it shot past our orbit.. and was it in front or behind of our orbital track?
Either way I'd say that was frigging close, for a global tech squasher.
It's a pity those companies don't trust employees and contractors to do their work by whatever means is best. There is plenty of potentially work-related material on YouTube (depending to some extent on what your work is).
More generally, trying to stop people goofing off by censoring Web access is foolish. Hire people who won't goof off. If they do anyway, notice it and tell them to stop. If they ignore your request, fire them. OK?
I agree with Tom Walsh. Do IT services monitor how long you aren't at your desk? Does your company monitor all your phone usage too?
Your productivity and internet usage should be the concern of your manager only.
As for the link, when using the mobile, I wish that the actual link was provided, so I could 'click' and the video would then open in a video player, so i can avoid the slow flash crap.
Leave the embedded stuff if you want, but have a href fallback please?
I think they use sensitive smoke detectors in bathrooms (and that includes on airplanes). That and some form of clock should suffice to keep bathroom breaks to a minimum.
As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager may delegated the task to the IT guy as a security matter.
"As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager maydelegatedthe task to the IT guy as a security matter."
That's a fair point. I concede it also depends what the job is in the first place.
'anon' neglected to mention he/she works on the counter at McDonalds!
We will need to move our entire civilization underground, so that our computers and communications networks will be shielded from this kind of event. Of course, farmers will still need to work on the Earth's surface; perhaps they can keep in touch using fiber optic links!
Keeping electrical lines short will limit how much current can be produced in them by induction from things like solar storms, so we will want to go away from large interconnected power grids.
Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here while waiting for the computer manufacturing industry to be rebuilt? That would be better than tearing them apart to recover toxic metals or whatever. If we don't have a solar storm, at least this will prove to future archeologists that it wasn't a myth that people had computers in the 21st century.
"Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here"
Not many would survive an extended period out of use. Capacitors dry out, batteries leak - and what are you going to do with it anyway? Manual skills for shelter, warmth, clothing and food would be far more important. Once those basic needs are met, we need electricity, comms and healthcare.
"the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm"
Yeah, but what are the odds that the five year old junkers will runs a modern OS like Windows 8? We'd all have to go back to WinXP. Oh, wait.... :-)
I wonder if anyone realises that any damage from a large CME (coronal mass ejection) can be totally eliminated by simply turning everything OFF.
That's right. Except while turning everything OFF isn't exactly a trivial undertaking, believe me it will be a whole lot easier than the 5-10 years of misery that will follow a large CME targeted at the Earth if we don't.
Everything from the entire electrical grid to your car battery will have to be disconnected in order to avoid damage. All circuit breakers would have to opened, everywhere.
These mass ejections usually take 2-3 days to reach the earth so there would be sufficient warning. The power grid would only have to be down for the duration of the CME's impact on the earth, probably only 24 hours.
Some power would have to be left on and the damage as a result "absorbed". I'm thinking nuclear power plants for example that would need continuous cooling.
It would have to be done, because a CME of sufficient power has the potential to wipeout EVERY SINGLE pole line transformer in the WORLD. And replacement of all those transformers would take years, if not decades to complete, during which you would NOT have any electrical power at all.
A program needs to be put into place to facilitate this shutdown before it is too late.
Turn it all off if you wish. It might though still cause fires for all those lines trailing outside your house. Telephone, electric etc. Did you read about the previous event? Those were not "electrified" or "powered" telegraph systems, some had been disconnected and still caused fires.
Going Fibre to the house is the only protection. ;)
The problem is that a sufficiently large event might convince certain countries (or rather their hair trigger fail-unsafe nuclear arsenals) that a first strike was underway.
Imagine if the Carrington event had happened during say the Cuban Missile Crisis, or had coincided with the Norwegian weather rocket event in 1995? Missile track incoming, and minutes later everything goes dark, its not outside the realms of possibility that a retaliatory strike would result on one if not both sides.
It concerns me greatly that in this day and age we still have over 6000 nuclear weapons ready to launch with less than ten minutes notice.
I'm not pointing fingers here (cough former USSR /cough) but we really have better things to do than have this much megatonnage just waiting for an accident or malicious use.
We dodged a bullet in 1962 and 1995, but our luck can't hold out forever.
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