Okay, so maybe that's a little dramatic, but a solar event on a large scale could mean trouble for people on Earth. The Nation Academies report estimates that it would cost around $2 trillion dollars to repair the damage should a large solar storm hit.
We all know that major storms can wreak havoc, flooding cities and decimating infrastructure. But there’s an even bigger worry than wind and rain: space weather. If a massive solar storm hit us, our technology would be wiped out. The entire planet could go dark.
“We’re much more reliant on technology these days that is vulnerable to space weather than we were in the past,” said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He told Gizmodo, “If we were hit by an extreme event today, it’d be very difficult to respond.”
“Solar storm” is a generic term used to describe a bunch of stuff the Sun hurls our way, including x-rays, charged particles, and magnetized plasma. A massive solar storm hasn’t hit the Earth since the mid-19th century, but space weather scientists are very worried about the possibility of another.
Thanks to a growing army of space weather observatories, we’re much better able to predict CMEs than we were 20 years ago. Still, most space weather scientists agree that if a massive solar storm struck today, we’d be pretty screwed. But we’re trying to change that.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has assembled a task force to explore ways of responding to extreme events. Berger said that they have a national space weather strategy due out in October. The strategy will outlines what the US needs to do to be “better prepared.”
Berger couldn’t comment on the specifics of the policy strategy, so we’ll have to check in again this fall. He did hint that it would be heavy on the recommendations for power suppliers. (Currently, power companies respond to large solar storm warnings by re-routing power distribution around transformers.)
In the meanwhile, what can a space weather-conscious Earthling do? Most of the usual disaster preparedness advice applies. Build an emergency supply kit. Have a plan for getting in touch with loved ones should the phones fail. Keep your car tank at least half full of gasoline. Keep extra batteries on hand, or purchase a solar or hand-crank charger. Back up your data. Make sure you’ve got plenty of spare crowbars — wait, no, that’s the zombie apocalypse.
At least the White House is taking this threat seriously, by assembling a task force and coming up with a national space weather strategy. What could they possibly tell people that they haven't already learned from zombie films? Bring on the space weather, most people have been ready for this since Y2K.
For more information go to: Gizmodo