Reporter Brad Plumer writes, “Today, electric utilities, telecommunications providers and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility: a solar storm that would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites.”
From the report:
The auroras of 1859, known as the “Carrington Event,” came after the sun unleashed a large coronal mass ejection, a burst of charged plasma aimed directly at the Earth. When the particles hit our magnetosphere, they triggered a fierce geomagnetic storm that lit up the sky and frazzled communication wires around the world. Telegraphs in Philadelphia were spitting out “fantastical and unreadable messages,” one paper reported, with some systems unusable for many hours.
Today, electric utilities, telecommunications providers and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility. A solar storm on the scale of that in 1859 would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites. In the worst case, it could leave 20 million to 40 million people in the Northeast without power — possibly for years — as utilities struggled to replace thousands of fried transformers stretching from Washington to Boston. Chaos and riots might ensue.
That’s not a lurid sci-fi fantasy, but rather a sober new assessment by Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market. The report notes that a smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours.
Read the full report, click here.