Solar flares have increased significantly in the past several days due to titanic magnetism creating major clusters of sunspots. A video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft gives viewers an up close and personal look at the action unfolding on the Sun. A plethora of “tangled lines” in two active, bright regions of the Sun is highly visible throughout the NASA video. The magnetic field lines are visible in extreme ultraviolet light because of the high energy particles spinning around them.
An excerpt from a Discover Magazine report about the emerging solar flares and sunspots reads:
“When magnetic fields on the sun get too tangled up, they may suddenly snap, releasing a gargantuan explosion of energy in the form of a solar flare. In the video, you can watch this process play out as the sun’s surface crackles with magnetic energy and then bright flares pop off. In the video you can watch a particularly large cluster of sunspots swing across the view with the sun’s rotation. As the little image of our planet used at lower left for scale indicates, just one of the big sunspots could easily swallow up the Earth with room to spare.”
As the sun works through its 11-year cycle, solar activity is expected to increase as it reaches the solar maximum stage. The strongest solar flare of this cycle happened on August 9, 2011; the flare registered a 6.9 on the activity scale. A powerful solar flare which occurred last year temporarily kicked military satellites offline.
Solar flares are essentially strong radiation bursts, but scientists do not feel that harmful radiation can pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and cause physical problems for humans and animals. NASA and NOAA experts cannot seem to agree on solar flare predictions for the remainder of this 11-year cycle. The space weather researchers only discovered how solar flares were formed during the past 20 years.
Concerns that a solar storm equal to the magnitude of the 1859 Carrington Event could hit the Earth prompted some scientists to urge Congress to quickly address the power grid’s frailties. The governing body chose to ignore the experts’ pleas. Statistically speaking, a massive solar storm is likely to occur about every 100 to 200 years. During the Carrington Event, the Earth was bombarded with a wave of “energetic particles” and then a massive solar flare. Telegraph poles and wires caught fire and papers on operator’s desks were also reportedly set ablaze.
Imagining the immediate death and destruction which a Carrington Event strength solar flare would cause in our modern world is a very sobering proposition. During a recent conversation with One Second After author Dr. William Forstchen, he aptly noted that projected death toll figures in a grid-down scenario are decidedly low. Government officials and scientists did not take into account the immediate deaths and fires caused when thousands of airplanes in the sky at any given moment crash during a solar flare. Firefighters and EMTs will not be able to rush to such accident scenes to put out fires or offer medical aid.
Any patient dependent upon electricity to sustain life will also perish rather quickly. Once the oxygen tanks of the ill residing at home or assisted-living centers run dry, they will also become solar flare casualties.. Many scientists agree that such a doomsday scenario would also cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage.
Do you think the federal government should be doing more to safeguard the power grid as the stalled SHIELD Act suggests?