The coming solar storms

The NASA space agency and the NOAA meteorological agency have warned that a strong solar flare, which was detected earlier this week, could affect both GPS navigation and the operation of communication satellites in the coming days.

The ‘cannibal’ coronal mass ejection (CME) impacted in the magnetic field of the Land last Wednesday, November 3, unleashing a geomagnetic storm considered “strong”. CMEs are large ejections of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona. These billions of tons of coronal material travel outward from the Sun at speeds ranging from less than 250 kilometers per second (km / s) to as fast as about 3,000 km / s. Cannibal CMEs are fast moving solar flares that they reach and they devour their relatives slower moving. Cannibal CMEs can cause long-lasting geomagnetic storms on Earth.

Last week’s solar flare could repeat itself. “Harmful radiation from a solar flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans; however, when it is intense enough, it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where communications and GPS signals travel, ”NASA explained in a statement.

The agency noted that spacecraft can be affected by phenomena such as surface loading and orientation problems, and the storm could interfere with high-frequency radio signals at high latitudes, potentially affecting long air flights. distance.

The submarine cables that connect continents would be some of the most affected if a large solar storm occurs. Its collapse would cause a massive loss of connectivity across the planet, leaving entire countries without access to the network. Impacts beyond those related to electricity The infrastructure that would suffer the most would be those near the poles. Hence Asia is less exposed although many submarine cables are concentrated in Singapore.

The high-energy particles emitted by the flare could also cause certain atoms in Earth’s atmosphere to glow, leading to auroras in Central Europe and North America. Of course, air travel would also be affected. So far it is unknown what the impact on human health is in these types of storms. What is certain is that the economic losses would be gigantic.

According to research by Sangeethe Abdu Jyothi, from the University of California, about $ 7 billion could be lost in the United States alone in a single day. On the other hand, a 2008 report from the United States Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine warned that the solar storm would cause damage of between one and two trillion dollars in just one year, establishing the period of 10 years. recovery from the shock provoked.

In 2012, the airline company Delta Air Lines diverted some routes that connected Detroit (United States) with Asia and that flew over the poles. The event scared the most superstitious, since it was said that that year would be the end of the world due to a Mayan prediction. But the truth is that a solar storm was the culprit of this moment full of uncertainty. The most powerful solar flare that occurred in years affected these aircraft and could have worse consequences if they had caught these aircraft on the radar that affected the solar storm the most.

There are many that have taken place throughout history, but it was not a great variety that had a strong impact. However, we can remember the one of 1921 or the ‘Carrington event’ of 1859. In the latter, the needles of the compasses went out of control and the telegraph lines between Europe and the United States were disabled. In addition, the northern lights could also be witnessed in amazing parts of the world such as Colombia or the sky of Madrid was tinted pink. It brought down the hydroelectric network in Canada, with a total blackout of nine hours in the northeast of the country.

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