Violent solar storms, or “cannibalistic” Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), could bring down satellites, damage power grids and destroy Internet connectivity.
Violent solar storms, or “cannibalistic” coronal mass ejections (CMEs), could bring down satellites, damage power grids and destroy the Internet connectivity. Sunspots and other sun events are known to cause widespread power outages, but experts are now warning that they could also cause a “Internet Apocalypse.” Sun failures are known to affect television broadcasts, stock trading and mobile communications as they impact satellites in geostationary orbit. However, such events rarely seriously affect the people in their day-to-day life.
A study recently detailed how solar phenomena can potentially disrupt global internet services. According to research, coronal mass ejections could cause long-lasting global internet blackouts that could last for days. With the highest impact expected near the Earth’s magnetic poles, Europe and North America would be more exposed to such events than Asia and Africa. The research also suggested that the submarine cables that digitally link the globe would be the most affected, while the local fiber-optic infrastructure could fare relatively unscathed.
While the most frightening predictions regarding the impact of CMEs on the global digital infrastructure have yet to come true, new reports now claim that geomagnetic storms caused by serial CMEs hit Earth earlier this month. According to Espace.com, the earth was hit by medium-sized geomagnetic storms on November 3-4. More are expected in the months and years to come. Solar events such as CMEs are said to have a cyclical pattern, increasing in intensity every 11 years or so. In recent years, there has been very little noticeable solar activity, but this is changing for the worse, with larger and more destructive solar storms expected in the coming years, affecting power grids, mobile communications and Internet connectivity.
The dreaded “solar maximum” is scheduled for 2025
The work of tracking such storms falls to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at SWPC, the observed “solar minimum” over the past few years is turning into a “solar maximum” in 2025, and this month’s storms are just the forerunner of what is to come. come. He also described the latest solar events as “cannibalistic solar storms” where a minor storm is followed by a huge CME that comes from behind and engulfs the storm in front, or “cannibalizes” it. becomes bigger and more dangerous.
The strength of these storms depends on the size of the CME and how it aligns with Earth’s magnetic field, but that’s still bad news for satellites and other communications equipment on Earth and in geostationary orbit. The SWPC tries to minimize the damage by preparing the parties concerned for any impending solar storm. Once it detects any solar activity, it notifies all power grid operators in the United States and Canada to prepare them for any eventuality. Small-scale storms can cause voltage irregularities, Murtagh says, but these are perfectly manageable and the possibility of something going wrong is low. However, large-scale cannibalistic CMEs can cause significant damage to power grids and the Internet connectivity, he says.
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