Solar Storm Update 



Late spring of 2021, we were bombarded by numerous articles on the cyclical threat by our Sun. Months earlier, a similar rash of events occurred about UFO’s. Both events had reasons for their timing. In the case of our sun it is a reoccurring event which is an eleven year cycle is now beginning. Our only hopes,  if and when the events written about here happen, they are not aimed towards earth. And yes it has happened before. I have written about this in some detail a year ago. That article & and accompanying videos can be found here. For a timely update see the articles below. - W.W.



Why America Should Suddenly Prepare 

For A Billion-Dollar ‘Internet Apocalypse’

Caused By The Sun


by Jamie Carter  Senior Contributor  / 

Forbes Science  July 1, 2021



Our Sun is waking up—and it could have devastating consequences for the Internet, particularly in North America, if a “black swan event” like a solar superstorm occurs.


As reported by SpaceWeather.com, a “solar tsunami” occurred on the surface of the Sun last Thursday. A mass of charged solar particles hurtled towards us and were expected to arrive at Earth on Monday. It could be joined on Tuesday and Wednesday by the leftovers of a solar flare on Saturday to produce a G1-class geomagnetic storm.


We know the Sun is getting more active as it enters a new Solar Cycle with some predicting it could be the strongest since records began.


Earth will cope this time—but what about the 1.6% to 12% chance that a huge solar superstorm occurs? And we—and our internet—prepared for such an event?”


Like the coronavirus pandemic, apparently not.


It’s the subject of a new research published this week and presented at the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference. It doesn’t make for easy reading.


The report rates North America as one of the most vulnerable regions where an outage of the Internet could last for months.


With Internet outages estimated to cost about $7.2 billion per day to the US economy, that’s surely worth preparing for—and mitigating.


Solar flares vs coronal mass ejections


Of course, Earth does have defences against solar flares, intense bursts of radiation that only threaten our planet when they happen on the side of the Sun facing it.

 

When solar flares come our way, Earth’s magnetosphere accelerates the charged particles down its field lines to the poles. The result, of course, is an afterglow known as the aurora—the Northern Lights and Southern Lights.


Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are different. Rarer huge eruptions on the Sun caused by magnetic storms, they create huge clouds of plasma that could damage power grids if they drift our way.


Power grids vs the Internet


However, power grids are designed to mitigate the effect of CMEs. The Internet is not. “The networking community has largely overlooked this risk during the design of the network topology and geo-distributed systems such as DNS and data centers,” reads the paper, which predicts large-scale Internet outages covering the entire globe and lasting several months.


The problem with undersea cables

The problem, say the authors, are the undersea cables that are the invisible backbone of the Internet. While the fiber-optic cables under countries and cities wouldn’t suffer, largely because they’re shorter and grounded, the vast number of subsea links between continents are more vulnerable.


“[CMEs] produce Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) on the Earth’s surface through electromagnetic induction,” reads the paper. “Based on the strength of the CME, in extreme cases, GIC has the potential to enter and damage long-distance cables that constitute the backbone of the Internet.”


Long-distance cables have repeaters to boost the optical signals spaced at intervals of 30-93 miles/50-150 km, which are powered using a conductor.


Do we know if they’re resilient to solar superstorms? No. The last large solar events were in 1859 and 1921, which damaged the telegraph network. As for the modern Internet, its resilience has not been tested, say the authors.


Why North America would suffer the most


Since the high-energy particles from a solar superstorm would be funnelled towards the poles, higher latitudes would be most at risk. This is where the most Internet infrastructure is, including undersea cables. But while Europe tends to use shorter cables, North America relies on longer cables, say the authors. So North America could suffer longer Internet blackouts.


Either way, Europe and America could become disconnected while Asia’s equatorial Singapore hub would likely be less affected.


The paper also says that Google data centers have better resilience than Facebook’s.


What about satellites?


Satellites in orbit are also in danger of being damaged, says the paper. That’s potentially an even bigger deal in future if systems like Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink constellation succeeds in bringing low-lost broadband to much of the world who can;t yet access the Internet.


Worse still, the authors think that Starlink-style satellite networks might be especially vulnerable, writing: “GPS and communication satellites which are directly exposed to solar storms will suffer from lost connectivity during the event, potential damage to electronic components, and in the worst case, orbital decay and re-entry to Earth (particularly in low Earth orbit satellites such as StarLink.”


Like coronavirus all over again?


This, said lead author Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi to Wired, is a story about us humans being totally unprepared for something of major importance. Sounds familiar, right? “What really got me thinking about this is that with the pandemic we saw how unprepared the world was. ... there was no protocol to deal with it effectively and it’s the same with Internet resilience,” she said. “Our infrastructure is not prepared for a large-scale solar event. We have very limited understanding of what the extent of the damage would be.’


As an example of just how unprepared governments might be, back in May 2021 the UK Prime Minister’s former principal advisor, Dominic Cummings, revealed that the UK’s plans are “completely hopeless” and that solar storms could cause a “a worse situation than Covid.”


Why threat is now becoming real



99% of international data is transmitted by undersea cables. GETTY


All this comes as our Sun waxes towards “solar maximum” in 2024. The Sun has a cycle that lasts between nine and 14 years—typically 11 years, on average. At the peak of that cycle—called solar maximum—the Sun produces more electrons and protons as solar flares and CMEs.


“During solar maxima, there is an increase in the frequency of two solar phenomena, solar flares and CMEs) both caused by contortions in the sun’s magnetic fields,” reads the paper.


‘Solar maximum’ and total solar eclipses


It’s thought that the Sun will reach solar maximum in the mid-2020s, though exactly when sunspot frequency will peak is anyone’s guess. It’s something that can usually only be described in retrospect. The last solar maximum was in 2013/2014, but was was ranked among the weakest on record. The next one could be the strongest.


Once way to gauge what’s going on visually is by counting sunspots—and the other is by looking at the Sun’s mighty corona during a total solar eclipse. 


The next one is on December 4, 2021 in Antarctica.


Either way, power grids are somewhat protected against solar superstorms. If we believe the Internet is also critical infrastructure—and, of course it is—it needs protecting against another kind of corona emergency.


Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.


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Sun Erupts with Double Blast; 

Energy Headed to Earth


BY WEATHERBOY TEAM METEOROLOGIST

SEPTEMBER 8, 2021


The Sun is an explosive mood today, erupting C-class flares off of its surface; it appears a double blast is sending energy to Earth now.  A C2-class flare exploded off of sunspot AR2864 earlier today. A pulse of UV radiation ionized the Earth’s atmosphere, bringing about interference and disruption in some radio communications.  An even larger explosion occured today, with giant sunspot AR2866 producing a C8-class flare. That larger event disturbed radio communications over North, Central, and South America today.



Large sunspots on the Sun are blasting Earth-directed solar flares into space. Image: NOAA SWPC


Solar flares are classified according to their strength, on a B-C-M-X scale. B flares are the smallest while X are the largest. Similar to the Richter scale used to help quantify earthquakes, each letter represents a ten-fold increase in energy output. Within each letter class, there is also a finer scale that usually extends from 1-9. Within the powerful X class of flares, the number could exceed 9 to reflect a massive flare event.


Today’s C8 scale event was much larger than the earlier C2 class event. While stronger than a basic B class flare, they aren’t necessarily destructive on Earth. While an X-class flare can create world-wide black-outs, blast airline passengers with radiation, and create global communication issues, C class flares typically create some radio black-outs; more importantly, they can impact satellites that Earth depends on for navigation and communication.


National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is monitoring today’s explosions, determining what impact, if any, will occur on Earth with these explosions. It is possible both blasts sent a coronal mass ejection (CME) towards Earth and geomagnetic storm conditions are possible in the coming days.




Geomagnetic storms are rated on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the weakest and 5 having the most potential for damage. Even a  G1 geomagnetic storm could create issues:  there could be weak power grid fluctuations and minor impacts on satellite operations. Aurora, also known as the “Northern Lights”, could be visible at high latitudes from northern Michigan and Maine to points north. Impacts and aurora change as the geomagnetic storm scale increase.


Dark regions on the Sun known as coronal holes are one of the main drivers of space weather now. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, coronal holes appear as dark regions on the Sun because they are cooler than the surrounding plasma and are open magnetic field lines. The Sun’s outermost part of its atmosphere, which is known as the corona, is where these dark regions appear. The solar corona was also one of the main features of the Sun scientists were most excited to study during the past solar eclipse. You are able to notice these features in extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and soft x-ray solar images.


Solar wind is always flowing from the Sun and towards Earth but coronal holes are known for releasing enhanced solar wind. Coronal holes can develop anywhere on the sun and are more common during solar minimum. One solar rotation of the Sun occurs every 27 days and coronal holes are sometimes able to last several of these. It is common to see persistent coronal holes at the north and south pole of the Sun but sometimes they can expand towards the equator of the Sun resulting in a larger region. Normally, coronal holes located near the Sun’s equator, result in faster solar wind arriving at Earth. It is common to see coronal holes produce G1-G2 geomagnetic storming levels and sometimes on rare occasions, upwards to G3 levels have been met.


NOAA forecasters analyze these features and have to take them into account during each forecast. If Earth is experiencing the effects of a coronal hole and a coronal mass ejection is forecasted to impact Earth, the combined effects could result in a more significant impact and more intense geomagnetic storming. Analyzing data from the DSCOVER and ACE satellite is one way forecasters can tell when the enhanced solar wind from a coronal hole is about to arrive at Earth. A few things they look for in the data to determine when the enhanced solar wind is arriving at Earth:

• Solar wind speed increases

• Temperature increases

• Particle density decreases

• Interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) strength increases


If you are an aurora chaser or space weather enthusiasts, you’ll want to become familiar with coronal holes. They will be providing much of our geomagnetic activity going forward and will remain persistent during solar minimum. Citizen Scientists should explore Aurorasaurus which allows you to share or get alerts and images on aurora activity with a community of others interested in space weather.


While these solar events can help illuminate the sky with stunning aurora, they can also do considerable harm to electronics, electrical grids, and satellite and radio communications.


On September 1-2 in 1859, a powerful geomagnetic storm struck Earth during Solar Cycle 10. A CME hit the Earth and induced the largest geomagnetic storm on record.  The storm was so intense it created extremely bright, vivid aurora throughout the planet: people in California thought the sun rose early, people in the northeastern U.S. could read a newspaper at night from the aurora’s bright light, and people as far south as Hawaii and south-central Mexico could see the aurora in the sky.


The event severely damaged the limited electrical and communication lines that existed at that time; telegraph systems around the world failed, with some telegraph operators reporting they received electric shocks.


A June 2013 study by Lloyd’s of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in the U.S. showed that if the Carrington event happened in modern times, damages in the U.S. could exceed $2.6 trillion, roughly 15% of the nation’s annual GDP.


While typically known for their weather forecasts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service (NWS) is also responsible for “space weather.” While there are private companies and other agencies that monitor and forecast space weather, the official source for  alerts and warnings of the space environment is the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The SWPC is located in Boulder, Colorado and is a service center of the NWS, which is part of NOAA. The Space Weather Prediction Center is also one of nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) as they monitor current space weather activity 24/7, 365 days a year.


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Why Solar Storms Occur? How To Protect Internet, Life On Earth From Solar Storms


by Monit Khanna  Sep 04, 2021


Today, our world cannot function without technology -- whether it’s something as basic as electricity or something as impactful as the internet. Businesses across the world use these on a daily basis to get work done. 


However, what if our world goes into a complete blackout with no power, no internet or no sort of digital networking whatsoever. It sounds like a scary dystopian future no one wants to be a part of, but the worst part is, this could happen, and we don’t know when. What would cause this, you ask? Solar storms.


What are solar storms?


Solar Storms occur when the sun is at its peak solar activity. The sun shoots out boiling hot plasma in the form of solar flares and winds. This includes huge bursts of charged particles that are released from the sun’s atmosphere straight into space.


These affect Earth’s magnetosphere that produces vibrant auroras around regions where auroras are not normally seen. 


These huge bursts of charged particles could cause devastating interference with electronics, rendering them completely unusable. 


Why do they occur?




According to NASA, the Sun, much like Earth, is going through its own kinds of activities, however, since it’s the star of our solar system, activities on it have a massive impact on all the planets, including Earth. Solar storms are a result of solar activities that occur on the sun’s surface.


This can be in the form of coronal mass ejections -- large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun, solar flares -- an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots, or high-speed solar wind streams coming from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. 


The activity picks up when the Sun goes through an active solar cycle (which changes every 11 years) and it just began a new one last year in November, indicating we could soon experience more solar activity for the next few years. 


The damage solar storms can cause


Solar storms often cause outages in power and communications, as when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth’s magnetosphere and can destroy the electronics on our planet due to the overwhelming bombardment of charged particles. 


For humans on Earth, it poses no major risk as we’re protected by our atmosphere. However, astronauts in space aren’t that lucky. Charged particles from solar winds travelling towards Earth increase their chances of soaking in harmful radiation. It also increases the chances of causing damage to their spacecraft.


Very little is known about the Sun and its storms


Even today, humans know very little about the Sun and its activities, even less about solar storms since they’re such a rare phenomenon. Earth has records of only a handful of solar storms, and very few of them have truly shown what kind of devastation it can cause to the electric infrastructure.


According to NASA, a solar storm that occurred on September 2, 1859, known as the Carrington Event. It completely disrupted the telegraph service, while also shocking the individuals on the ends of the telegraph lines. This was also a time when electricity was not very common across the world. 


The most recent one shows us a dark glimpse of what could go wrong in a massive solar storm. On March 13, 1989, the Hydro-Québec power network in Canada went down due to geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) which were a result of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun on March 9, 1989. 


The currents destroyed a transformer and led to a general blackout that lasted more than 9 hours, affecting over 6 million people.

 

However, due to the rarity of this occurrence, we don't know the kind of impact it can have in today's modern world, which makes it difficult for us to be prepared for what's in store for us. 


How can Earth stay safe from solar storms?


Destruction of power grids due to solar storms could have catastrophic social and economical challenges for our planet. Hospitals won't be able to take care of the sick due to lack of power, businesses won’t be able to function, resulting in an economic collapse, and humans would lose all forms of digital and radio communication.


Experts have also highlighted that solar storms could put internet connectivity at risk too, taking us all offline. So it is important that we remain prepared for solar storms.


Researchers have sent probes to the star of our solar system to study its anomalies and understand a pattern of solar storms and maybe predict its occurrence beforehand so when the charged particles do approach Earth, the electrical grids are shut to not overwhelm them and prevent them from destruction. 


Stronger hardware to withstand solar storms


Rob Manning, vice president for transmission at the Electric Power Research Institute, in a statement with NBCNews said that innovators are thinking ahead, to make sure electrical hardware doesn't go down easily. 


Engineers are also creating capacitor banks, which could essentially act like batteries -- absorb and dissipate excess electricity. Some are even working on installing electricity-dampening devices, more commonly known as Faraday cages, that would act like force fields that can surround and protect critical pieces of equipment. 


The Department of Electricity in the US is working on developing better flywheels that can spin faster or slower depending on their charge -- physically drain excess electricity off the grid, turning the sun’s electrons into movement and heat. However, according to Manning, none of these solutions are perfect. 


He explains, “There are some devices that will ground that current out and remove it from the system, but it creates some unintended consequences. It’s like taking a drug that fixes a problem you might have, but it has unintended side effects.”


Prevention is still the best cure


Experts believe that the best way to protect against solar storms is to predict or forecast them in advance and shut down the grid before it hits. Still, there is no guarantee, that with todays micro circuitry, even if turned off, it will not get cooked by the suns magnetic solar energy.


Researchers are working to improve these forecasts to offer warnings a few hours in advance. One of the ways is through the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) that offers important data about the timing and speed of solar bursts. 


Even the Parker Solar Probe, that’s on its journey to study the Sun, will offer data in never-before-seen detail, offering a new perspective about how the sun’s atmosphere heats up to release coronal mass ejections.


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