Solar Storms Harness Enough Energy to Damage Entire Power Grid

focus_solar-storms_disaster_earthSpace weather. What is it? And why should we care about it? Well, scientists are discovering that space weather and solar storms affects a lot more than just space travel, and could have a huge impact on our daily life.

Today, we rely on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications on a day-to-day basis. What makes solar storms so scary is the fact that they harness enough power to knock out all of these high-tech systems and bring our daily routine to a screeching halt.

Solar storms occur when sunspots on the sun, erupt and spew out charged particles that can damage power systems. A major solar storm could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina.

These solar storms operate on 11-year cycles of activity, and the next peak of storms is expected in 2013. To prepare and minimize the damage as much as possible, top sun scientists met Tuesday to discuss the best ways to protect Earth’s satellites and other vital systems from the coming solar storms.

“The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity,” said Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we’re getting together to discuss.

I believe we’re on the threshold of a new era in which space weather can be as influential in our daily lives as ordinary terrestrial weather. We take this very seriously indeed.”

They agreed that if we know exactly when the next solar storm is about to hit, much of the damage can be avoided by putting satellites in “safe mode” and disconnecting the transformer, so that the electrical surges won’t fry our technology. Scientists already have some spacecraft and satellites monitoring the sun, but are still working on gathering even more information so that they can identify the storms as soon as possible.

(Via Yahoo News)

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