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The Next Solar Storm Could Smash Earth Causing an Internet Apocalypse

A new study released in Nature Communication revealed that approximately 9200 years ago a solar storm battered planet Earth and left its trauma deep in the ice of Greenland and Antarctica.

This new study analyzed these ancient ice samples and discovered a previously unknown storm. This storm was one of the the most powerful solar weather systems ever detected. And if this same storm that hit 9200 years ago hit today, it would cripple our modern communication systems.

Also, these scientists discovered that this massive solar storm seemed to have hit during the sun’s “solar minimum.”

A solar minimum is the point in the sun’s 11-year cycle when solar outbursts are less common. “The Sun’s temper varies on an 11-year cycle, typically taking about 5 1/2 years to move from the quieter period of solar minimum, to the more turbulent solar maximum.”

Scientists study the solar cycle by studying the sun’s surface. They look for dark splotches called sunspots, which are short-lived patches caused by severe magnetic activity. The number and frequency of these sunspots on the sun indicate the sun’s activity as it moves between solar minimum to solar maximum. Also, these sunspots can erupt into what we call solar storms, which shoot out streams of charged particles into space that can fall onto the Earth. If the solar storm is powerful enough, it bombards the Earth’s magnetic field causing disruption to the power grids and knocking out satellites that are in orbit around the planet.

Discovering that a major solar storm occurred during the sun’s solar minimum has concerned these researchers because that means that these storms could hit Earth when we least expect them. And we will not be prepared when the next bit one hits.

Scientists now believe that we need to include these solar storms that could occur during the sun’s solar minimum in our risk assessment. Raimund Muscheler, a geology researcher at Lund University in Sweden and participant of this new study said in a statement, “these enormous storms are currently not sufficiently included in risk assessments. It is of utmost importance to analyze what these events could mean for today’s technology and how we can protect ourselves.”

How can we protect ourselves when stars that we can’t control attack Earth?

The outside part of the sun’s atmosphere is called the sun’s corona. This corona has magnetic field lines on it. Solar storms happen if these magnetic field lines of the corona get tangled up and then violently snap back into place. When this sudden snap back of the magnetic reconnection occur, it releases huge amounts of plasma and coronal mass ejections known as CMEs. These plasma and CMEs surf across the atmosphere of space on the solar winds of the sun.

When a strong CME passes over planet Earth, it can possibly compress the Earth’s magnetic shield, causing what is known as a “geomagnetic storm.”

A mild geomagnetic storm can damage satellites and internet radio transmissions. But a severe geomagnetic storm which occurred back in 2003 known as the “Halloween Storms” can cause more massive power outages across the world and permanently damage our electrical infrastructure including our power transformers.

If a solar storm occurs that becomes large enough to affect the world’s undersea internet cables, this could result in an “internet apocalypse.” If an internet apocalypse occurs this can leave many parts of the world disconnected from the grid for months.

When the sun’s 11-year cycle gets closer to the eleventh year, CME outbursts are generally at its peak. And the sun goes into its natural cycle known as the “solar maximum.” A solar maximum is when the magnetic activity in the sun’s corona is high and CME outbursts are high.

We do have satellites that can monitor these solar outbursts directly. But discovering these ancient solar storms requires special analysis. The researchers of this new study applied this special analysis and found evidence of special particles known as cosmogenic radionuclides.

Radioactive particles appear in tree rings and ice cores. These researchers look for radioactive particles in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica. The ice cores in both of these locations showed an increase in radionuclides beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 dated to around 9200 years ago that indicate that a severe solar storm showered the Earth then.

According to these researchers, the ice cores revealed that the storm that occurred 9200 years ago was similar to the most powerful solar storm ever recorded by humans that happened between 775 B.C. And 774 B.C.

It’s not that the solar storm occurred that baffles these researchers, it’s that the solar storm occurred during a solar minimum and it was more powerful than ones recorded during solar maximum.




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