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Thread: Severe Space Weather

  1. #1
    Council Member Sergeant T's Avatar
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    Default Severe Space Weather

    It would appear there's a big slug of solar energy inbound. At worst these cause communications disruptions and play hell with satellites, at best they give a nice light show to those of us in the northern latitudes. The cooler heads are estimating this one will be the latter. A bit of background here, here, and here.

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    we're all gonna die!

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    The threat of solar storms that could wreak havoc on the world's electronic systems must be taken more seriously, the UK government's chief scientist has warned. A severe solar storm could damage satellites and power grids around the world, he said, leading to a "global Katrina" costing the world's economies as much as $2tn (£1.2tn).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/20...global-katrina

    WASHINGTON — Space weather could pose serious problems here on Earth in the coming years, the chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Saturday (Feb. 19).

    A severe solar storm has the potential to take down telecommunications and power grids, and the country needs to work on being better prepared, said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Lubchenco is also the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

    "This is not a matter of if, it's simply a matter of when and how big," Lubchenco said of the potential for a dangerous solar flare. "We have every reason to expect we're going to be seeing more space weather in the coming years, and it behooves us to be smart and be prepared."

    http://www.space.com/10906-space-storms-threat.html

    And, last week, the Sun sneezed. A class X solar flare, the most powerful in four years, erupted on the Sun late on February 14, and associated with it were a series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), blasting charged particles towards the Earth. This storm raised concerns that it could cause everything from communications blackouts to disruptions in the power grid from geomagnetically induced currents as the storm’s charged particles interacted with the Earth’s magnetic field. Fortunately, though, the direst predictions failed to come to pass, as the storm caused only minor interference with communications.

    The timing of the storm was good in one respect: it came just days before a session on the effects of space weather at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington. The session, scheduled long before last week’s storm with the provocative title “Space Weather: The Next Big Solar Storm Could Be a Global Katrina”, was intended to raise awareness of the threat solar storms pose to modern civilization as the Sun approaches another peak in its 11-year cycle of activity.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1783/1
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    This got my attention recently when a good friend had to spend four days without electric power and no running water having to take care of sick family members during our recent Midwest blizzard.

    No power, 18" inches of snow, 30 to 35+ mph winds (6 to 8+ foot drifts), nothing was moving except a group of first responders on snowmobiles, well pumps were inoperative due to no power, had to use a camp stove and wood burning fireplace because their 90+ HE gas furnace uses an electronic circuit board controlled ignition system, and of course, an electric stovetop unit.

    And she grew up on a farm equipped with an outhouse and a well hand pump. By day 3 she was really missing both the outhouse and the hand pumped well.

    A 1921 solar storm (not to mention an 1859 Carrington level event) would be an absolute nightmare for most of the Northern Hemisphere. I hear the experts saying that the circuit breakers built into the system would protect much of the power transmission infrastructure, but I've never been able to get an answer to what I see as one critical difference (probably wrong on my part, but maybe somebody knows the answer).

    A solar storm on the magnitude of the 1921 event would most likely massively charge the entire power grid - not just a 'spike', but probably the entire grid at a level almost sure to trigger virtually all the built-in circuit breakers existing all across a modern day power transmission grid.

    All that power resulting from the CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) has to go someplace - since we know from 1859 that such a CME would use transmission lines as a conduit (in 1859 it was the telegraph lines), would this type of event result in serious damage to the transmission lines themselves (being that the circuit breakers probably kick in)? Or would the massive burst of electrical current across the lines simply arc across the now tripped circuit breakers and damage even more of the transmission infrastructure?

    Insights appreciated...

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    Default any electronics

    Any electronics above 8k feet are at higher risk. Altitude really plays hell with this stuff in my experience (I've done a lot of high altitude computing). So people living in mountain states in high areas have a higher risk of outages than people at lower levels.

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    Council Member Sergeant T's Avatar
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    I'm not anything approaching technically versed in this matter, but I read something a few years ago about step down transformers. Apparently that's the weak link in the power grid. Thing I read (Ted Lewis' Critical Infrastructure Protection book.) said that they're custom made and take several months to produce.

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    Default Well...

    I'm not an expert in grid related issues. I know more about compute related issues. Things like using ECC ram get critical for instance. There get to be weird issues with nanometer distances in chip components too. Also most equipment handles faults better than doomsayers generally predict. For instance a lot of equipment might fail during an event, but if there's circuits in place to prevent over-voltage & overloads, they'll trip & the gear can recover. Without those sorts of precautions though (which are more commonly put in place due to other, more common risks to start with), equipment can permanently fail when the magic smoke escapes.

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Watcher In The Middle View Post
    A 1921 solar storm (not to mention an 1859 Carrington level event) would be an absolute nightmare for most of the Northern Hemisphere. I hear the experts saying that the circuit breakers built into the system would protect much of the power transmission infrastructure, but I've never been able to get an answer to what I see as one critical difference (probably wrong on my part, but maybe somebody knows the answer).

    A solar storm on the magnitude of the 1921 event would most likely massively charge the entire power grid - not just a 'spike', but probably the entire grid at a level almost sure to trigger virtually all the built-in circuit breakers existing all across a modern day power transmission grid.


    Insights appreciated...
    Let's see what the scienticians at NASA say :



    Above: What if the May 1921 superstorm occurred today? A US map of vulnerable transformers with areas of probable system collapse encircled. A state-by-state map of transformer vulnerability is also available: click here. Credit: National Academy of Sciences.

    The strongest geomagnetic storm on record is the Carrington Event of August-September 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare with his unaided eye while he was projecting an image of the sun on a white screen. Geomagnetic activity triggered by the explosion electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting their telegraph papers on fire; Northern Lights spread as far south as Cuba and Hawaii; auroras over the Rocky Mountains were so bright, the glow woke campers who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. Best estimates rank the Carrington Event as 50% or more stronger than the superstorm of May 1921.

    "A contemporary repetition of the Carrington Event would cause … extensive social and economic disruptions," the report warns. Power outages would be accompanied by radio blackouts and satellite malfunctions; telecommunications, GPS navigation, banking and finance, and transportation would all be affected. Some problems would correct themselves with the fading of the storm: radio and GPS transmissions could come back online fairly quickly. Other problems would be lasting: a burnt-out multi-ton transformer, for instance, can take weeks or months to repair. The total economic impact in the first year alone could reach $2 trillion, some 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina or, to use a timelier example, a few TARPs.
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news...espaceweather/

    It'd be 9-11, times a thousand.
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    GENEVA (AP) -- A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to criticial infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

    NOAA Assistant Secretary Kathryn Sullivan says the intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and countries should prepare for "potentially devastating effects."

    Solar storms release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits.

    Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a U.N. weather conference in Geneva on Tuesday that "it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet
    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...05-17-07-57-46
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    OSLO — A U.N. plan to upgrade "space weather" forecasts can help the world cope with solar storms that might wreak up to $2 trillion in damage if the sun repeated a giant flare of 1859, experts said.

    The sun is entering a more active phase due to peak in 2013 on a roughly 11-year sunspot cycle, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. Power supplies, air traffic control, communications and satellites can all be disrupted by storms.

    "We are increasingly being impacted by space weather," Barbara Ryan, director of the space weather program at the Geneva-based WMO, told Reuters. She said there was a need to coordinate forecasts and upgrade warnings of looming storms.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43327720...science-space/


    Report highlights GPS vulnerability to space weather
    by Lloyd's List — last modified Jun 08, 2011 12:20 PM

    A new report from the American Meteorological Society has revealed how vulnerable satellite systems are to space weather, such as solar flares and geomagnetic storms, which can cause distortion or total loss of a signal.

    It highlights the impact solar storms could have on modern communication and global navigation satellite systems and is urging for more work be done to understand the impact of space phenomena.

    GPS receivers calculate their location through the analysis of signals...
    http://www.lloydslistdcn.com.au/arch...-space-weather

    also

    http://www.surveyequipment.com/news/...es-174954.html
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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    ...and teaching paper map, compass and protractor land nav skills was pointless.
    Antti Pulkkinen, who leads NASA's "Solar Shield" satellite-based detection system at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said the cloud of ionized particles from Tuesday's violent "coronal mass ejection" will largely miss Earth, giving some North American residents a glimpse of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, this weekend. "It will not be a major event [for] the power grid," he said.

    However, NASA spacecraft detected a much larger eruption last weekend on the backside of the sun headed away from Earth, generating a much faster-moving cloud.

    "If this event was on a collision course with the U.S., we would have had a major space weather event," Pulkkinen said. "In this regard, we got lucky."
    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/06...ids-63979.html


    "The worst-case scenario is an extreme event," says Michael Hesse, chief of NASA's Space Weather Laboratory at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "If it were to happen and we don't take any precautions, it would probably knock out our power grid for an extended period of time and destroy a sizable fraction of our satellite infrastructure."

    "This is not something we expect to happen tomorrow," he cautions. "But it's like the impact of a hurricane on a specific location. You don't expect it to happen tomorrow, but you might want to think about if it were to happen."
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2386623,00.asp
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    June 22, 2011 - NOAA forecasts, supported by guidance from the WSA-Enlil solar wind model, are projecting CME arrival mid to late day UTC on June 23. The CME does appear to be clearly Earth-directed, so some effect is almost certain. The bulk of the disturbance is still expected on June 24, with G1 (Minor) and isolated G2 (Moderate) levels of Geomagnetic Storming expected for the duration of the event. High latitude aurora watchers should be on alert Thursday and Friday night.
    http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/
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    A 1300-foot-wide (400 metres) asteroid, which is more than one and a half times the length of a soccer pitch, will pass within 0.85 lunar distances of the Earth on November 8/9, 2011.
    Discovered on December 28, 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program near Tucson, Arizona, 2005 YU55 is believed to be a very dark, nearly spherical object.
    http://www.irishweatheronline.com/ne...ber/32083.html

    FEMA, FCC Announce Nationwide Test Of The Emergency Alert System

    Similar to local Emergency Alert System Tests, this Test is Scheduled to Take Place on November 9, 2011

    Release Date: June 9, 2011
    Release Number: HQ-11-099

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The nationwide test will occur on Wednesday, November 9 at 2 p.m. eastern standard time and may last up to three and a half minutes.
    http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=55722
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Your subject line is empty so I'm unsure what your point happens to be.

    The Asteroid passes Earth at 2328Z on 8 Nov, comes closest to the Moon at 0713Z on 9 Nov and the Emergency Alert Test is almost twelve hours later at 1900Z on the 9th (the time determined and announced for the Test at the June Meeting of the FCC). So?
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-23-2011 at 08:00 PM. Reason: Fuzzy math

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    Good planning on FEMA's part - if NPL's math was off five months ago (when the EAS was first announced), it was ideally positioned to be moved left on the timeline and no longer be an exercise.

    See the so?
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Uh, no.

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamG View Post
    Good planning on FEMA's part - if NPL's math was off five months ago (when the EAS was first announced), it was ideally positioned to be moved left on the timeline and no longer be an exercise.

    See the so?
    No so there, no there there IMO. Once again, the sky does not seem to be falling...

    That Asteroid was removed from the Sentry Risk Table in April, 2010. That means its orbit and trajectories could be adequately ascertained at that time, over a year before the theorists began to mutter and darkly predict. Yet another conspiracy falls prey to reality.

    Having spent 12 years working with (not for, thank the gods) FEMA, I suspect I have far less respect for their prescience and capability than do many. I also believe the FCC, based on recent performance, is incapable of thinking that far ahead. After over three times that many years working for the US government in several capacities, I'm firmly convinced that Hanlon's Razor applies to the government's actions far more often than might conspiracy or deviousness...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    No so there, no there there IMO. Once again, the sky does not seem to be falling...
    back atchya. Frothy tonight, aren't we?

    Ok, mere coincidence. Carry on, nothing to see here.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Talking No more than usual. I've seen a lot of falling sky predictions fail miserably.

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamG View Post
    Ok, mere coincidence. Carry on, nothing to see here.
    It's not even a coincidence -- except for those who thrive on that stuff and wish it to be...

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    Word of today's blast, technically known as a coronal mass ejection or CME, comes via SpaceWeather.com's Tony Phillips. NASA says the outburst sparked an M3.2-class solar flare, as well as a stream of electrically charged particles that is due to interact with Earth's magnetic field on Saturday.
    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news...eading-our-way
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