Solar storms could cripple modern life

James Marshall
March 12, 2019

"This was a high level of particle radiation, ten times more than has been observed in the last 70 years", Raimund Muscheler, of Lund University in Sweden, said. "If..." With their research, the team aims to help people prepare for future giant solar storms, which could shut down global communication systems, air traffic systems, and satellites.

The team of scientists, which examined the chemicals preserved in Greenland ice sheet, concluded that the storm was almost 10 times stronger than anything detected in past 70 years of modern measurements. The material contains evidence of a very powerful solar storm that occurred in 660 BCE.

A solar storm of such intensity would have the potential of wiping out large swathes of modern technology on Earth and could throw civilisation into disarray. The researchers believe that society might not be sufficiently prepared if a similar event were to happen now.

Earth is constantly being bombarded by cosmic particles. However, the stream of particles is particularly strong when a solar storm sweeps past.

During that solar storm, the sun unleashed a series of powerful solar flares that were so powerful telegraph operators' offices experienced a surge in electricity which resulted in some buildings setting on fire. "Assets in space, including satellites and humans, need to be protected, and even systems on the ground are at risk from large solar events".

In the past, scientists have used ice cores to locate two other major solar storms, one which took place in 775 AD and another in 994 AD. He points out that even though these massive solar storms are rare, the new discovery shows that they are a naturally recurring effect of solar activity.

Three solar "super storms" bigger than anything recorded in recent history have occurred in the last 3000 years, scientists have discovered. Researchers say the current findings could mean the frequency of these "potentially devastating" events has probably been underestimated.

While the most serious consequences for those living in 660 BC was just a stunning display or aurora borealis or australis, northern and southern lights respectively, things would be completely different for us today. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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