February 21, 2011

SCIENTISTS WARN OF $2 TRILLION “SOLAR KATRINA:”

The sun is waking up from a long quiet spell. Last week it sent out the strongest flare for four years – and scientists are warning that earth should prepare for an intense electromagnetic storm that, in the worst case, could be a “global Katrina” costing the world economy $2,000bn.

Senior officials responsible for policy on solar storms – also known as space weather – in the US, UK and Sweden urged more preparedness at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. . . .

The most intense solar storm on record, which ruined much of the world’s newly installed telegraph network in 1859, took place during an otherwise weak cycle. An 1859-type storm today could knock out the world’s information, communications and electricity distribution systems, at a cost estimated by the US government at $2,000bn.

In terms of terrestrial vulnerability, the biggest change since the 2000 peak is that the world has become more dependent on global positioning system satellites – and not just for navigation. The world’s mobile phone networks depend on ultra-precise GPS time signals for their co-ordination.

Read the whole thing. One problem with our fiscal profligacy is that it makes us less able to prepare for, or recover from, major disasters.

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