Earth blasted by big solar storms

Three ancient events of massive solar storms that could have had a big impact on earth have been recorded by scientists, indicating that such events if they occur now could seriously disrupt life – probably leading to massive electricity outages that could take months or years to restore.

Think about it – no power or electricity, crippling vital services such as transportation, aviation, virtually everything in this electricity-dependent world.

Solar explosions emit highly energetic particles known as solar proton events which often hit earth, exposing people on planes or at high altitudes to radiation, leading to power outages and damaging electronics.

A gigantic storm hit earth 2,600 years ago and was 10 times stronger than any such storm recorded in the modern day, the Live Science website has reported.

Analysing such storms, scientists conclude that such proton storms can generate radioactive atoms of beryllium-10, chlorine-36 and carbon-14 in the atmosphere. This evidence can be detected in ice cores and tree rings, and such samples collected in Greenland indicate a spike of radioactive beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 about 2,610 years ago.

Previous discoveries of tree rings also indicate a spike of carbon-14 at about the same time in tree rings and ice cores.

A geomagnetic storm which tripped power lines in Quebec, Canada, in 1989, almost shutting down power grids in faraway cities in the US, could have been of a much lower intensity, scientists have said.

A lot of infrastructure could be damaged and people travelling in air and space are much more exposed to high energy radiation, Live Science quoted a senior study author Raimund Muscheler, an environmental physicist at Lund University in Sweden, as saying.

The scientists detailed their findings on March 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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