Saturday, May 5, 2012
Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, UK, made a startling prediction.
A stream of highly charged particles from the sun is headed straight toward Earth, threatening to plunge cities around the world into darkness and bring the global economy to a halt.
Much of the planet’s electronic equipment, as well as orbiting satellites, have been built to withstand periodic geomagnetic storms but, the world is still not prepared for a truly damaging solar storm, Hapgood argues in a recent commentary published in the journal Nature.
The largest geomagnetic storm took place in 1859, having huge impacts on the telegraph, which suggests there would be similarly severe impacts on modern power grids. This was followed by the 1989 Quebec event.
Today, we use electricity to pump water into people’s houses and to pump the sewage away. We use credit cards, debit cards or we’re getting money out of an bank ATM. If we lost the power, the computers in the bank that keep track of our money will have back-up power, but not the ATMs or the machines in the shops. So if you had a big power outage, it wouldn’t be long before we’d be trying to find cash.
Scientists estimate there is a 12% chance of a repeat of the catastrophic 1859 event occurring in the next 10 years.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times