Scientists Warn of Immense Solar Storm Threat
May 4, 2006
Discovery Channel, Canada
As the world scrambles to prepare for hurricanes and earthquakes of unprecedented strength, some scientists say the sun poses an equal threat, with predictions calling for a 2012 sun storm of immense proportions.
If the idea of a solar storm sounds too much like the stuff of sci-fi, consider this: a single large solar flare has a million times more energy than the largest earthquake, according to Space.com.
The vast space between the Earth and the Sun is filled with electrically-charged particles, radiation, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic energy that could play havoc with Earth in the event of elevated solar output.
The last great solar super storm was 145 years ago. But, this event provides little context given our very recently-adopted dependence on satellite-based technologies.
Last month, experts convened in Colorado during Space Weather Week (April 25-28) to discuss the issues surrounding the approaching 2012 event. If the storm turns out to be at the same scale as the one in 1859, economic disaster would ensue, with immediate costs around the $20 billion mark.
Sten Odenwald of the QSS Corp., based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt predicts that in the 2012 storm will kill only the oldest of the 300 geosynchronous Earth-orbiting (GEO) satellites. However the storm would likely reduce the life of all the other satellites by five to 10 years.
These longer-term problems would add tens of billions of dollars more over the years, Odenwald says. The GEO satellites alone generate about $97 billion US in revenue each year.
A solar superstorm could also:
- force about 100 low Earth-orbiting spacecraft to undergo earlier-than-normal reentry
- disrupt Global Positioning Systems the world over
- force the International Space Station to lose altitude