So what’s all this talk about solar flares?  What exactly is it … or shall I say, are they?

Well, a solar flare is a large explosion in the sun's atmosphere. These flares are powered by the sudden release of magnetic energy called a coronal mass ejection (I know…zzzzz).

Think of it this way.  A solar flare is like a glob of something on your finger.  The coronal mass ejection is created when you fling the glob off your finger out into space.

If the glob is flung in the direction of the earth, billions of tons of solar plasma (with the energy of 100 billion Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs) would enter the earth’s atmosphere and cause a lot of havoc.


Okay, let me give you a little history (groan …)

In 1859 a large solar flare accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (known as the “Carrington event”), flung billions of tons of solar plasma onto the earth’s atmosphere and disrupted our telegraph systems, set telegraph offices on fire and even threw our compasses out-of-wack.
In, 1989, a solar flare completely knocked out power in Quebec Canada.

Then in 2003, a solar flare (yes, a little closer to home) caused satellites to fail, blackouts to occur and planes to be re- routed.  And, the scary part?  Most of us were oblivious that any of this was taking place.

On Dec. 6, 2006, GPS devices suddenly malfunctioned around the world, caused by an intense burst of radio energy – yepper you guest it - a solar flare that interfered with transmissions between GPS satellites and receivers.

So, I’m wondering, what would happen should one strike us?

Quite possibly, it could knock out (or yes even completely destroy) our communication systems, bring down our satellites, wipe, burn out our electric grids (the power to our homes) and, knock out phone and cable lines.

All-in-all it would be a catastrophic event of major proportions.  This is not a maybe, it’s a given, that is, should we take a direct hit from a large solar flare.

What would happen to our water distribution, perishable foods and medications?  There would be loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, transportation and, fuel resupply.   It would be absolute chaos.

Think of it, we rely every single day on electricity, satellite communications, GPS systems, air travel, telephones, computers, televisions, and radio.  Should we lose all of these or even some of them, there are going to be some pretty desperate people out there!

Our world could be thrown back a 100 years in a heart beat!

As it stands today, currently the sun is going through a cycle which will peak during 2012, following the build up of sun spots (which by the way, I am in no way referring to doomsday and end-of-the-world stuff.)

So, whether we like it or not, we are all completely vulnerable to solar flare strikes, just as we are to hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis.

In fact, the National Research Council, (funded by NASA and issued by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), released a report entitled Severe Space Weather Events.

The report states:  “A severe space weather event in the U.S. could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people.”

The New Scientist states: “According to the NAS report, the impact of what it terms a "severe geomagnetic storm scenario" could be as high as $2 trillion. And that's just the first year after the storm.”

The NAS report puts the recovery time at 4 to 10 years and further states, “… it is questionable whether the U.S. would ever bounce back.”

So, what can we do to prepare?

Well, in all honestly, the same thing we are doing for all other natural disasters.  Stock up on food, water and supplies and most importantly; I would highly suggest you sharpen your survival skills as these may be your only assets for years to come. Just sayin'.

- Survivor Jane



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