February 29, 2012
THIS DOESN’T SOUND SO GOOD: 1 in 8 Chance of Catastrophic Solar Megastorm by 2020.
At the time of the Carrington Event, telegraph stations caught on fire, their networks experienced major outages and magnetic observatories recorded disturbances in the Earth’s field that were literally off the scale.
In today’s electrically dependent modern world, a similar scale solar storm could have catastrophic consequences. Auroras damage electrical power grids and may contribute to the erosion of oil and gas pipelines. They can disrupt GPS satellites and disturb or even completely black out radio communication on Earth.
During a geomagnetic storm in 1989, for instance, Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid collapsed within 90 seconds, leaving millions without power for up to nine hours.
The potential collateral damage in the U.S. of a Carrington-type solar storm might be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the first year alone, with full recovery taking an estimated four to 10 years, according to a 2008 report from the National Research Council.
Too bad we didn’t put that stimulus money toward hardening infrastructure against this and other disasters or something. But that would have meant too many jobs for burly men, which was politically unacceptable to feminists in the Obama Administration.