This morning I wrote a diary on yesterday's enormous solar flare, with an X-ray magnitude of X6.9 on the GOES scale, that erupted with a coronal mass ejection, in a direction away from earth. Sun Ejects Most Powerful Solar Flare In Five Years, See Video.
I promised the many commenters who asked what might happen if such an eruption occurred in our direction, that I would research this question. It turns out that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, not only has thought this through, but predicts that we could have solar eruptions strong enough to disrupt power grids, GPS, air travel, and communication in the next four years, in an article released this evening.
IB Times Staff Reporter writes Bigger Solar Flares Could Cause Year-Long Blackouts, Nuclear Crisis
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted Earth could be hit by at least four gigantic solar storms in the next couple of years, which could cause global disruptions in GPS systems, power grids, satellite communications, and airline communications.
The NOAA predicted four “extreme” solar emissions which could threaten the planet this decade, while NASA has warned that a peak in the sun's magnetic energy cycle and the number of sun spots or flares around 2013 could cause extremely high radiation levels. ...
Federal Government studies have shown that extreme solar activity could cause complete blackouts for years in vast tracts of the country. More alarmingly, there could be disruption of power supply for years, or even decades, as geomagnetic currents attracted by the storm could debilitate the transformers. ...
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nuclear plants in the country affected by a blackout have procedures to keep the reactor and spent-fuel pool cool only for a limited time of 72 hours.
Yikes! This is astonishing, and frightening. So much so, that I'm searching for additional verification. The IB source looks reputable, and seems to specialize in NOAA, and NASA reports.
Also, many other commenters thought the sun was entering a period of dormancy. Not according to the NOAA. "With solar activity expected to peak around 2013, the Sun is entering a particularly active period and big flares like the recent one will likely be common during the next few years."
Yesterday's solar flare rated a X6.9 on the GOES scale used to rate solar flare intensity.
"This image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light at 131 Angstroms. Photo credit: NASA/AP"
Extensive long-term disruption of power grids, and telecommunications could wreak havoc on our nations 104 nuclear plants, which now only have procedures to generate on-site power to cool reactor cores and spent-fuel pond cool for 72 hours. This alarming situation needs immediate attention, as we have seen in Fukushima what the consequences of meltdowns can be.
The NOAA predicts four extreme solar flares capable of causing these kinds of consequences will be released in earth's direction in the next 10 years!
Moreover, a nuclear plant without grid power is a recipe for disaster, as it will potentially go through a process of meltdown. It is also observed that the part of the country predicted to be affected by the solar storms host considerable number of reactors.
Once the spent fuel rod pools at the country's 104 nuclear power plants lose their connection to the power grid, the pools could boil over, exposing the hot, zirconium-clad rods and sparking fires that would release deadly radiation.
The article goes on to point out that the back-up batteries, and generators designed to keep nuclear plants cooling systems going during blackout, are only designed and supplied for 72 hours, not years of being off-grid.
Holy smokes, folks,
I'm not making this stuff up.
This is not the plot of a new TV Sci-Fi horror film, this is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
We are lucky to have this heads up, before any such events occur. We need to hear from the NRC immediately, what their view and state of preparation for such scenarios is at the moment.
We do need to take these longer-term threats more seriously.
And, prepare better responses for such worst-case scenarios.
I will write more about this tomorrow as I have more time to do more research, and assimilate this new data.
Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 11:31 PM PT: Mrsgoo provides us with this link confirming the estimate of a potential global blackout for more than a year.
Historical CMEs in Comparison
On 13 March 1989, a CME knocked out power to the entire Canadian province of Quebec for nine hours. Back on 1-2 September 1859, a “Solar Superstorm” caused the failure of telegraph systems all across Europe and North America. Auroras were reportedly seen as far south as Hawaii and the Caribbean! The world today is way more dependent on electricity than back in 1859. An event similar to 1859 occurring today could create a major setback to the high-tech countries and could result in a global blackout that could last up to a year. This recent flare was rated a Class X2, which is on the low end of the X scale and will not fall into a “worst-case scenario”. The latest from NASA indicates that the bulk of the CME is going to pass just behind us, putting Earth on the edge. Earth is a very small target in space. We will certainly have to keep monitoring our Sun for future solar storms as we approach the solar maximum over the next several years.
1:08 PM PT: Hi Folks. Sorry for the delay in responding to comments, My SO appears to have developed a blood clot in her leg as a complication of her knee replacement surgery this last weekend.
So, I've been taking care of her and we're now at the hospitcal getting medical imaging.
I really appreciate the over 300 comments and will respond to each and every question, but I'll have to wait until I get back, as I can only be on this computer a few minutes.
Thanks so much for you interest in this subject.