Solar Storm Could Cause $2 Trillion in Damage!
Just in from SpaceWeather.com, news of a study that quantifies the potential damage of the worst solar storms:
The 132-page document examines what might happen to our high-tech modern society in the event of a super solar flare followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm. Such a storm did occur in the year 1859. It electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting telegraph papers on fire; Northern Lights as far south as Cuba were so bright, you could read a newspaper by their eerie glow.
According to the report, “a contemporary repetition of that event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions.” The report warns of widespread failures in telecommunications, electric power, banking and finance, and transportation; even water supplies could be disrupted. The total economic impact in the first year alone could reach $2 trillion–about 15 times greater than the costs of Hurricane Katrina. Depending on damage, full recovery from the solar storm could take 4 to 6 years.
No one knows how often super solar storms occur. We’ve only seen one like it in the past 200 years. The next one could be another 200 years away–or just 200 days. All the more reason to study space weather!
And that is just the economic impact. With power disruptions you can get looting. Damaged infrastructure could lead spark civil unrest – it might be hard to purchase food if you rely on a credit card… Some governments (yes you, Mr Bush) have proven to be inept when dealing with lesser catastrophes.
Was the storm of 1859 the worst possible? According to Scientific American, “ice cores suggest that such a blast of solar particles happens only once every 500 years, but even the storms every 50 years could fry satellites, jam radios and cause coast-to-coast blackouts.” Could there be a once-in-5000-year storm that is another magnitude worse?