We are constantly at threat of disaster, and unfortunately, they don’t all originate here on Earth. No, I’m not talking about alien invasions (although I’m sure those would be important to prepare for, too). I’m talking about our mild-mannered yellow dwarf star, also known as the Sun.
Our sun is a wonderful thing. It gives us light, warmth, and helps grow our food. But it’s also the source of extreme power and, if unleashed on us here on Earth, could cause major problems to our power grid.
Actually…that’s already happened.
Usually, our magnetic field just deflects solar wind. If it comes at us strong enough, however, it can break through our magnetic force field. In 1989, a solar surge knocked out power in Quebec, Canada for nine hours, effectively collapsing Hydro-Quebec’s electricity transmission system. Other electrical utilities in the U.S. also encountered problems due to the solar storm.
But 9 hours without power? That’s a long time! And that solar storm wasn’t even as big as they come. According to experts on the Space Studies Board, all we need is one massive solar surge and we’d have economic damages of up to $2 trillion!
For a bit of perspective, with that much money you could buy all the sports leagues in the United States. We’re not talking just NFL. We’re talking MLB, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR, too! Then, if you felt like it, you could buy them all again, and still have lots of money left over. Oh, and that includes teams and rosters. Yeah. $2 trillion is a lot of money.
But don’t worry, the White House has a plan to counter this nasty space weather. According to a Yahoo! article, a strategic plan has been put into place to prepare for damaging solar eruptions. Alright, so there’s not much we can actually do to prevent this kind of solar attack, but there are steps being taken to minimize the damage.
Just like any good disaster, if we can predict it, we can be better prepared. Such is the case with solar storms. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center is constantly monitoring the sun, so we can know when the next blast is heading our way. This will give us 12-15 hours’ notice, so the proper agencies can be alerted, thus allowing them time to take the proper precautions. Still, that’s not a lot of time, but it’s certainly more than we’d get from a tornado or an earthquake. We’ll take what we can get.
NOAA also has what they call a space tsunami buoy floating out nearly a million miles from Earth, floating gently between us and the sun. When the space buoy gets pummeled by solar wind, we have 15-60 minutes before the storm hits Earth. That’s when we know how big the storm will be, too. Again, not much time, but at least it’s something.
The White House has also enlisted two dozen other national agencies and departments to step up to this celestial threat. Engineering standards will rise, risk will be better understood, and there will be all around better planning for response and recovery. And it’s not just us. The European Space Agency is also working on developing a warning network. After all, we’re stronger when we work together.
But that’s all fine and good for the government. But while they’re scurrying around trying to get the grid back up and running for you, how are you and your family holding up?
You don’t have to be living in the city where your power plant is located to be effected by a solar storm. Once the grid goes down in one area, it can go down for many, many other parts of the country. This is why it’s so important to have emergency backups. Do you have emergency lights? What about alternative power supplies? The power outage in Quebec lasted 9 hours, and that wasn’t even the biggest solar storm we can expect (although it was certainly one of the largest so far).
If the grid goes down for an entire day – or two, or three – will you have a way to cook for your family? Will you have lights so your children can be comforted? These are some things to think about. When it comes to solar storms. The thing about the sun beating away at our planet is that we are all at risk. When it took out the power plant in Quebec, parts of New York and other areas in New England were also affected.
If you already have emergency power and lighting, make sure you take time to check it over a few times a year, just to make sure it’s still in good working condition. If you don’t…well, there’s no better time than the present to start getting your gear together. Check out our power and lighting options to get started.
How are you preparing for solar storms?