Solar Superstorm Threat: Potential Internet Disruption for Weeks or Months

solar-superstorm

The captivating brilliance of the Northern Lights conceals a latent danger—energetic bursts from the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These powerful emissions, if directed at Earth, hold the capacity to inflict significant harm, including prolonged disruptions to our internet systems lasting weeks or even months.

The potential economic fallout is substantial, with estimates reaching up to $20 billion per day in the United States alone.

Acknowledging this celestial risk, the US Navy has earmarked a significant $13.6 million grant for a collaborative initiative with George Mason University.

The objective is to establish a sophisticated early warning system capable of detecting and preparing for incoming CMEs.

solar-superstorm

A CME’s impact extends beyond the visual spectacle of the Northern Lights—it disrupts our magnetic field, generating electrical currents that can course through the ground, potentially damaging our electronics, from computers to cell phones.

Furthermore, the power grid and satellites remain susceptible to this cosmic disturbance.

The last documented direct hit from a CME occurred in 1859, resulting in the disruption of the telegraph system, sparks flying off the wires, and unfortunate cases of electrocution among operators.

In the contemporary era, with electronics far more delicate than the telegraph wires of the 1800s, a CME possesses the capability to incapacitate our entire internet infrastructure for an extended period, with severe economic implications.

Compounding these concerns, the sun is currently undergoing a heightened activity phase, increasing the likelihood of a CME striking Earth in the next decade.

To relieve this risk, scientists are actively engaged in developing predictive methods to anticipate CME events and crafting strategies to fortify our electronic systems.

These efforts encompass research aimed at enhancing the resilience of the internet infrastructure, ensuring a robust defense against potential damage caused by solar superstorms.

 

Ammara Ahmed

Ammara Ahmed

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