Ever hear of the Carrington Event? Probably not. It occurred more than 150 years ago and its effects were minimal. But if anything like it happens again – and scientists are convinced it will – the effects could be devastating. Named after Richard Carrington, an astronomer who witnessed the incident, the Carrington Event was a super solar flare that shot directly toward the earth. Causing what we now know as an EMP, this solar storm produced a high intensity burst of electromagnetic energy that disrupted communications and shocked technicians when it shot through telegraph lines.
Fortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot to disturb in 1859 in terms of electronics. Resting comfortably in their little house on the prairie, Ma and Pa Ingalls probably didn’t even notice it. But if a powerful solar storm were to target earth today, it could wreak havoc on our electric grids that support communications, computers, electrical appliances and much more. The kind of super solar storm that lines up with an orientation perfectly opposite the earth’s own magnetic field might occur approximately every 100 years. If so, we’re more than 50 years overdue.
I’d encourage you to check out the USA Today article titled “Electromagnetic Pulse Impact Far and Wide” by Dan Vergano (see link below). After explaining how modern society is so reliant on technologies that are vulnerable to EMPs, he explains how the intense magnetic fields that are created by EMPs can induce ground currents powerful enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment. It’s interesting reading. Meet you on the other side.
Newt Gingrich calls EMPs “an enormous catastrophic threat.” Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said, “the electric grid’s vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security.” A North American Electric Reliability Corporation report conducted with the Energy Department found that pulse threats to the grid may be much greater than previously anticipated.
What do you think? Is a solar EMP threat worth being concerned about? Or is it a bunch of hype? And if you think it’s serious, what do you think should be done about it? According to Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, the cost of protecting our grid against such an occurrence would be roughly $100 million, compared to the $1-2 trillion that would be required to fix a fried grid. Let me know your thoughts.