Recent scientific research reveals the Earth barely missed a disastrous solar flare that could have knocked out electronic communications and seriously damaged the power grid. The 2012 solar storm has been compared to the famous Carrington Solar storm of 1859 (named after) that caused the Northern Lights to appear as far south as Cuba.
On July 23, 2012, the sun spun off two huge plasma flares that almost hit the Earth. These flares were among the largest on record to head in the direction of Earth. NASA recently sponsored a couple of studies on the potential impact of the 2012 solar storm.
Comments from physicist Daniel Baker
Physics Professor Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado was one of the researchers involved in the studies funded by NASA. He commented in a statement on the NASA Science website. “I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did.”
Baker continued with a dire warning about the 2012 solar storm. “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire. If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces.”
Solar Storm’s direct hit could be catastrophic
Check out some quotes from the NASA report below. “Analysts believe that a direct hit . . . could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. . . . According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.”
The most sobering fact is that NASA calculates there is a 12% chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next decade and there’s relatively little that can be done given the prohibitive costs of hardening against that kind of intense solar radiation.
Coronal mass ejections
Solar flares or solar storms are essentially plasma clouds that are spun off of the rapidly rotating sun due to gravitic anomalies. Solar flares are also known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The 2012 solar storm was called a “double whammy” because the first solar flare cleared the way for the second. The NASA report explains in more detail: “This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier,” NASA said. ” As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.”