Solar storm could cause ‘weeks-long internet blackout’

Tamitha Skov, scientist and adviser to NASA, reported on a possible geomagnetic storm (solar storm) which could cause disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field this Tuesday, July 19. The expert explained this weekend on her Twitter account that “radio amateurs and GPS expect signal outages” in some parts of the Earth.

The most alarmist consider that it could lead to a blackout on the planet. It wouldn’t be the first time this happened due to a solar storm: indeed, the On July 3, there was a temporary blackout of radio waves in the Atlantic because of one of these phenomena.

José Luis Quiñones (collaborator of Astroland) emphasizes 20 Bit that this phenomenon “is produced by the chaotic rearrangement of the solar magnetic system which can throw off a large amount of electrically charged solar matter”.

“This flow of particles (protons and electrons) once ejected from the Sun travels in space at 300 and 3000 km/s (in this specific case it travels at 300 km/s) and can impact the Earth if it coincides with the trajectory of Earth’s orbit; it hits our magnetic field and passes through our atmosphere and interferes with our electrical networks and the Internet”, comments the expert.

What are geomagnetic storms?

The National Geographic Institute (IGN) defines these solar storms as “disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field lasting from a few hours to a few days”. IGN explains that they come from “a sharp increase in particles emitted during solar flares that reach the magnetosphere”.

These alterations can cause problems to the planet’s communication and energy network and even put them out of service. However, this must not happen.

How are they measured?

Skov detailed in another tweet that the impact strength of solar storms ranges from G1 to G5. Initially, that of July 19 would be G2, but it could reach a G3 level in the southern hemisphere.

The scientist used the prediction model of the Nasa to assess the impact and try to interpret the possible effects that he might have on Earth (however, this is not very predictable data). Although the moderate-strength storm is occurring today, users will notice the X-ray impact.

How long does it last?

Solar storms are disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field that can last for hours or even days and can also affect devices. On the other hand, these plasma radiations and solar magnetic field they can reach the Earth in 15 or 18 hours since his expulsion from the star.

Quiñones claims for 20Bits that it will last “a few hours. Evidence of the minor significance of the event is that NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) did not warn of any of this.”

Can a solar storm cause a major global blackout? Are there any possible consequences?

clearly yes, there could be a power outage the Internet extended weeksirreversible damage to power grid transformers, GPS devices could stop working for weeks, problems with air navigation… One of the most attractive consequences of the event is that it may be possible to see spectacular auroras in the Northern Hemisphere, reaching higher than normal latitudes,” added Quiñones.

During, The conversation recalls that “at present, the highest alert level published by the various space weather observation and forecasting services (such as NOAA, Space Weather or SOHO) is G1. This alert level corresponds to minor geomagnetic stormswith possible minor power grid fluctuations and reduced impact on satellite operations.”

“For the moment, the various attempts by States to deal with this type of threat have been timid, uncoordinated and based on generalities. Our current situation is one of obvious vulnerability.. And even if the frequency of these phenomena should not stop increasing in the years to come, it still seems to be a problem that is too foreign to us”, they explain in The Conversation.

The damage it can cause to technology

Today’s society relies heavily on Technologyso a power outage This could mean the paralysis of much human activity. The elements that could be most affected by this phenomenon would be radio communications and navigation by global positioning system (GPS).

If the lightning strikes hard enough energy distort the ionosphere, interfere with the propagation of radio waves. There is a risk of damage to electrical distribution networks, communication systems, spacecraft and other devices as a result of the solar storm.

In addition, overloads would occur, the signal would be lost GPSthere would be difficulties for air navigation, land cables would be damaged and submarine cables would have poor connectivity.

Another side effect is that solar activity would lower satellites from orbit, causing them to fall to Earth. ESA uses Swarm’s thrusters and burns fuel to correct their orbit, thus saving them from destruction.

What problems have solar storms caused in the past?

This is not the first time that a possible major outage caused by a geomagnetic storm has been reported. Last year, the commotion was created after Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner comment that there was a strong possibility that there would be a power outage that would affect all kinds of services.

NASA Ambassador Tony Rice spoke Last year how a G1 solar flare had immediate effects on Earth. “It was powerful enough to affect high frequency radio communications on the sunny side of the Earth.but that was last week [en 2021]-sharp-. The energy released by the solar flare travels at the speed of light, meaning it reached Earth in 8.3 minutes.”

How will this affect users?

Quiñones concludes that “the consequences of this type of G5 category event could be catastrophic, but above all in this category G2 event that we are dealing with, it does not represent a great danger for our society. And if it could happen in there somewhere, preferably in Asia, could cause short-lived and reversible electrical disturbances“.

The fear of this phenomenon stems from the fact that, if severe, it could involve the internet collapsing for months, although experts suggest it would be more likely to only happen for a few hours or so. A few days.

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