Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Have A Coronal On Me!

By Carl
Global warming? Bah. Meet solar warming:

Astroboffins are warning that a mighty "eruption" of superhot plasma has been blasted out of the Sun directly at the Earth. The plasma cloud is expected to reach Earth beginning tomorrow, possibly causing strange phenomena - including a mighty geomagnetic storm which could see the Northern Lights aurorae extend as far south as Blighty or the northern USA.

As you may or may not know, the typical solar cycle lasts about eleven years, intense activity followed by a similar period of calm. Well, the calm period extended a little, and now the buildup is about to hit us, in less than 24 hours, a coronal mass ejection has been spotted heading directly towards the earth.

It could mean as little damage as a few power lines disrupted and a lovely display of the Northern Lights. It could, and I stress this is a small possibility, mean a complete electromagnetic failure planetwide. This last is not very likely but not impossible.

On the other hand, the activity in 2013...well, that will likely create all sorts of havoc, and may cause the electromagnetic failure scientists have all but determined is inevitable, starting with cell phone outages worldwide and cascading into complete power failure on any electric grid, including solar and wind driven local grids.

To give you an idea, a solar maximum (as they're referred to) in 1921 knocked out the fledging New York City subway system. That's, um, the underground railway, you'll note.

Your best defense? Preparation, of course. Batteries. Lots of batteries. Capacitors, any type of electical storage that you can insulate from the grid will be safe unless it is directly attacked by the solar storms that will occur (remember, the night side of the planet will be relatively secure).

Consider Thursday a test run.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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  • There's no reason to believe that solar cycles are new even though we've only been counting for the last 23 of them. We're currently in one of the longest low sunspot periods in history, with only a few indications that cycle 24 has begun in earnest. 2013 is only an estimate and the prediction of cycle 24's peak has been pushed back by a couple of years already. We should have already been nearing a peak since the last one was in 2001. Predicting it's intensity is as exact a science as the examination of goat entrails or the reading of tea leaves. Being hit by a coronal mass ejection of a size to be dangerous is far from certain and certainly nothing new.

    Anyway Sunday's C class flare is of a low order and not likely to do anything but delight viewers in high latitudes and maybe piss off some Hams by interfering with HF propagation. X class flares are very rare and there's not much reason to predict any increased probability relative to any other peak period.

    The greatest peak ever recorded occurred in about 1959 -- a legendary period to Radio Amateurs today and the ionosphere was so charged up one could work the world on a Watt. Somehow we survived it. Right now we're still in the propagation doldrums hoping the next peak will come soon and won't be as weak as many scientists predict.

    But I digress -- why should we worry about this possibly weak and already dilatory event? The power goes out here all the time anyway because of hurricanes and tropical storms and so do the phones. Most of us in Florida are equipped for it and not afraid of the occasional candlelight dinner without telemarketing calls!

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:21 AM  

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