The Wuhan Flu is a drop in the bucket compared to what can really happen

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All this fuss over a simple coronavirus? Here is one example of what could happen - from Space Weather:

THE GREAT GEOMAGNETIC STORM OF MAY 1921:
99 years ago this week, people around the world woke up to some unusual headlines.

"Telegraph Service Prostrated, Comet Not to Blame" — declared the Los Angeles Times on May 15, 1921. "Electrical Disturbance is 'Worst Ever Known'” — reported the Chicago Daily Tribune. "Sunspot credited with Rail Tie-up" — deadpanned the New York Times.

They didn’t know it at the time, but the newspapers were covering the biggest solar storm of the 20th Century. Nothing quite like it has happened since.

It began on May 12, 1921 when giant sunspot AR1842, crossing the sun during the declining phase of Solar Cycle 15, began to flare. One explosion after another hurled coronal mass ejections (CMEs) directly toward Earth. For the next 3 days, CMEs rocked Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists around the world were surprised when their magnetometers suddenly went offscale, pens in strip chart recorders pegged uselessly to the top of the paper.

Then the fires began. Around 02:00 GMT on May 15th, a telegraph exchange in Sweden burst into flames. About an hour later, the same thing happened across the Atlantic in the village of Brewster, New York. Flames engulfed the switch-board at the Brewster station of the Central New England Railroad and quickly spread to destroy the whole building. That fire, along with another one about the same time in a railroad control tower near New York City's Grand Central Station, is why the event is sometimes referred to as the "New York Railroad Superstorm."

What caused the fires? Electrical currents induced by geomagnetic activity surged through telephone and telegraph lines, heating them to the point of combustion. Strong currents disrupted telegraph systems in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK and USA. The Ottawa Journal reported that many long-distance telephone lines in New Brunswick were burned out by the storm. On some telegraph lines in the USA voltages spiked as high as 1000 V.

These things happen from time to time - the article cites some more examples of what happens and then, the $64,000 question:

What would happen if such a storm occurred today?

Researchers have long grappled with that question–most recently in a pair of in-depth papers published in the journal Space Weather: "The Great Storm of May 1921: An Exemplar of a Dangerous Space Weather Event" by Mike Hapgood (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK) and "Intensity and Impact of the New York Railroad Superstorm of May 1921" by Jeffrey Love (US Geological Survey) and colleagues.

Our civilization would basically fall to shit as it would take six months or more to get electricity back to our cities. No cell service. No internet. No nothing. We think a simple flu is bad? This solar storm was similar to the Carrington Event of 1859. We had a similar event happen on July 23rd, 2012:

Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012
If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.

Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn't mention it. The "impactor" was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.

Thank God that we were off by one week:

"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," says Baker.  "If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire."

Preparedness is not stupid. It is not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN

1 Comment

Here it comes again - that scary story about the Carrington Event. BS writ large, suitable for a low-grade Hollywood sci-fi potboiler.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 13, 2020 7:57 PM.

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