If a solar flare came to earth, how long would technology be out?

Question by Chris: If a solar flare came to earth, how long would technology be out?
When/if a solar storm was headed to earth, depending by size, how long would Earth’s technology be out. And would the technology ever come back?

Best answer:

Answer by Satan Claws
“Solar storms” are “headed” to Earth several times every year, even though you don’t notice them. The last big one happened in February this year: http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=15&month=02&year=2012

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7 Responses to “If a solar flare came to earth, how long would technology be out?”

  1. Solar Flares come to the earth MANY times a year, and have been doing so since before mankind was “invented”.

    Solar flares do almost NO damage. Once in while a satellite goes down — and signals are re-routed within minutes. Solar flares almost NEVER reach the ground.

    Solar Flares are what cause the Northern (and Southern) Lights. They do little damage, and are really pretty if you can see them.

    But they are NOT going to knock out technology. Come on, dude! Read some REAL science books, not this “scare the little kids ” crap

  2. Flares don’t come to Earth, only the (sometimes) associated coronal mass ejections do. Only two types if technology are vulnerable, satellites and the power grid. Portable electrical devices are not at risk. For devices plugged into grid power I would think regular surge protectors that should be used for all electronic devices for protection from surges caused by lightening would also protect from surges due to geomagnetic storms. I have heard that some large transformers in the grid take months to manufacture and that there are not many space ones in stock. If a few require replacement that could take days. If the supply runs out it could be months to replace them all.

    Satellites could be damaged enough to be unusable, requiring a replacement satellite to be launched. That takes years.

    So what are the chances a geomagnetic storm large enough to disable all satellites and the entire world power grid would happen? I say about the same chance that the Y2K bug could have disabled all the computers in the world. In other words, zero chance.

  3. Did your power go out during 2011 or 2012 so far? Do you know if the reason it went was a solar flare, or a transformer blowing out because of a slar flare or trees or tree limbs falling on and bringing down transmission lines. Solar flares can be predicted far enough in advance for satellites to be powered down BEFORE the solar flare reaches Earth orbit. Sorry to prick your fantasy bubble of civilization falling apart because of a solar flare, but that very likely is not going to happen. Only ONE side of the Earth’s global magnetic field is facing toward the Sun to get a solar flare head on. The Magnet field projects us and deflects the flare pretty well. You can sign up with spaceweather. com get aurora alerts on your phone. Buy a generator and fuel for the generator and learn how to hook it up and use it, but don’t be surprised when your neighbors who can survive without air=conditioning and electricity phone you to complain that your generator is keeping them awake at night because it’s so noisy. That has actually happened to a friend of mine two times. I’m a customer of the electricity provider is that is the competitor to her provider.

    “…Magnetic Portals Connect Sun And Earth
    Science Daily (Nov. 1, 2008) — During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn’t believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page. …

    …”It’s called a flux transfer event or ‘FTE,'” says space physicist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn’t exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible.”

    Indeed, today Sibeck is telling an international assembly of space physicists at the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, that FTEs are not just common, but possibly twice as common as anyone had ever imagined.

    Researchers have long known that the Earth and sun must be connected. Earth’s magnetosphere (the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet) is filled with particles from the sun that arrive via the solar wind and penetrate the planet’s magnetic defenses. They enter by following magnetic field lines that can be traced from terra firma all the way back to the sun’s atmosphere.

    “We used to think the connection was permanent and that solar wind could trickle into the near-Earth environment anytime the wind was active,” says Sibeck. “We were wrong. The connections are not steady at all. They are often brief, bursty and very dynamic.”

    Several speakers at the Workshop have outlined how FTEs form: On the dayside of Earth (the side closest to the sun), Earth’s magnetic field presses against the sun’s magnetic field. Approximately every eight minutes, the two fields briefly merge or “reconnect,” forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth. The European Space Agency’s fleet of four Cluster spacecraft and NASA’s five THEMIS probes have flown through and surrounded these cylinders, measuring their dimensions and sensing the particles that shoot through. “They’re real,” says Sibeck. …”

  4. Solar flares reach Earth several times per year. They very rarely affect anything other than satellites. In 1989 an especially large one damaged some transmission lines and caused a blackout in Quebec for about 9 hours.

  5. Based upon the thousands of solar flares (or more properly coronal mass ejections) which have occurred during my lifetime and discharged in our direction, the average duration of outages would be pretty close to 0, and confined to power distribution infrastructure, and even then only under very freak circumstances.

  6. The flare itself is a local event on the Sun. It can’t even reach Mercury. It can be accompanied by the ejection of matter from the Sun’s corona, caused by the magnetic event that shapes the flare. The event is called a magnetic reconnection (which liberates a LOT of energy) and the “thing” that gets shot out into space is a “Coronal Mass Ejection” (CME).

    CME are shot off all the time (and more so near the maximum of solar activity every 11 or 12 years). However, space is large and Earth is small, so that most CME miss us. Still, we do get hit often enough (more than once a month near solar max). Sometimes we even get hit more than once in the same week.

    There are often minor glitches with technology, and sometimes we can even trace it back to a specific CME. In general, they affect satellites built at a time when computer chips were poorly shielded. Thanks to a pair of probes called STEREO, we now get up to a week’s warning of a CME coming our way. It is already common practise to shut down (on purpose) vulnerable satellites before the CME arrives.

    The last time there was a MAJOR technological hit, was in August 1989, when the servers for a Stock Exchange were affected. The server was down for almost an entire day and the poor brokers had to work as if they had been thrown back to the “stone age” of 1983 (when they still had to use hand signals to signal their transactions, and when they had to use a real… gulp… telephone (the shame of it all) to get their information.

    I think most of them survived.

    In March 1989, six million people went without power for nine hours, because another CME had caused a power spike in a major line of a power distribution grid. The reason it took nine hours to get the power back up is that no one knew what the real problem was. As far as the computers were concerned, they thought there was a real problem (like, the lines had fallen into a lake). Since that event, most power companies have installed protection systems. If the same thing happened today, the lights might blink long enough for some people to notice.

  7. during the most massive solar flare in recorded history, in the middles of the worst solar storm season known to mankind, there was a little static on some peoples cell phones, if they lived at really high altitudes. Nearly a whole dozen people reported it.

    I have a hunch technology will recover

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