Solar Flares Are The Greatest Threat To The InternetBy: Zach Walton - February 10, 2012
What’s the worst possible thing that could happen in 2012? It’s definitely not the apocalypse.
Michio Kaku took to bigthink to address the doomsday prophecies for this year. He discredits any ideas that suggest there will be comet impacts or planet alignments. He does, however, say that a solar flare would cause unimaginable chaos to the world today.
Now we get solar flares every few years and they never cause much harm. What Kaku warns against is something similar to the Carrington Event.
The Carrington Event was a famous solar flare that occurred on September 1, 1859. Richard Carrington, one of England’s foremost astronomers, noticed an enormous group of sunspots. As NASA explains, just before dawn of the next day, skies all over planet Earth turned red, green and purple in a massive aurora that could even be seen in tropical environments.
Telegraph systems went completely haywire. Telegraph operators were shocked and paper in telegraph offices was set on fire. The telegraph systems were disconnected and the solar flare itself began operating the lines.
This all comes back to the idea that a solar flare on the scale of the Carrington Event could happen in 2012. What would that mean for us? Kaku explains that a solar flare of that magnitude would knock out most of our satellites, telecommunication systems and even the Internet.
Thankfully, it appears that such a solar flare happening again within our lifetime is unlikely. Whenever the sun ejects solar flares after flipping its magnetic poles every 11 years, the Earth dodges most of the energy due to its small size.
The chance for another Carrington Event is still possible, however, so NASA and other firms are petitioning for money to upgrade current systems to withstand massive solar flares.
Oh, and before you ask, the film Knowing is not an accurate representation of solar flares.