Saturday, March 5, 2011

National Geographic Rebutting My Ideas?

I read a news in the National Geographic website moments ago about, yeah... solar storm.

On Valentines' Day 2011, the sun erupted with the largest solar flare seen in four years—big enough to interfere with radio communications and GPS signals for airplanes on long-distance flights.

As solar storms go, the Valentine's Day flare was actually modest. But the burst of activity is only the start of the upcoming solar maximum, due to peak in the year 2013.

The biggest solar storm in history hit us in the year 1859, during a solar maximum about the same size as the one we're entering, according to NASA. It is dubbed the Carrington Event, after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the megaflare and was the first to realize the link between activity on the sun and geomagnetic disturbances on Earth.
During the Carrington Event, northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu, while southern lights were seen as far north as Santiago, Chile. The flares were so powerful that people in the northeastern U.S. could read newspaper print just from the light of the aurora.
What's more, people were reporting about sparks leaping from telegraph machines—some bad enough to set fires. In 1859, such reports were mostly curiosities. But if something similar happened today, are we prepared for life without our high-tech gadgets?

In fact we are so dependent on technology today that even an innocent-looking heat wave could kill us, if we are left without our technological peers. The biggest consequence would be the disruptions to global positioning systems (GPS), which have become ubiquitous in cell phones, airplanes, and automobiles. Well I am in fact planning to get myself a GPS by the end of May as my graduation gift-now a delay would be warmly welcomed.
But more could happen to electrical grid, since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers. Such transformers can take a long time to replace, especially if hundreds are destroyed at once. And even if the latest solar maximum doesn't bring a Carrington-level event, smaller storms have been known to affect power and communications.

The "Halloween storms" of 2003, for instance, interfered with satellite communications, produced a brief power outage in Sweden, and lighted up the skies with ghostly auroras as far south as Florida and Texas.

Wait a minute. Am I contradicting myself here? I have always been critical on the topic of 2012 and now I'm contradicting what I've blogged merely 8 hours ago about rubbishing the prospect of 2012. Well, not exactly. The points highlighted above clearly render the hazard posed by solar storm, but as I read on, National Geographic also gave some points that downplay the effect of solar storm in our lives.
We have solar storm everyday-big and small. And it's the activity(number of solar storm over time) that counts. Individual solar storm could be devastating, but a large number of huge solar storm could blow us off our orbit(exaggerating, please laugh =.=).

Moreover, we could build power grids to be less vulnerable to solar disruptions.
Scientists using the new Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft are hoping to get a better understanding of how the sun behaves as it moves deeper into its next maximum and begins generating bigger storms. These studies may help scientists predict when and where solar flares might appear and whether a given storm is pointed at Earth.

Even now, the most damaging emissions from big storms travel slowly enough to be detected by sun-watching satellites well before the particles strike Earth. That gives us around 20 hours to determine what actions we need to take.
In a nutshell, power companies could protect valuable transformers by taking them offline before the storm strikes. And the good news is that these storms tend to pass after a couple of hours.
So, we have nothing to worry about really, well, until the next big solar storm strikes.



  1. ooo...someone plan wad to get for his graduation pressie dy :)

    (gosh, the highlight of this article is actually that point? haha)

    nice read :)

  2. im so obedient. i laughed =.='



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...