(Solar flares is a serious threat around 2012. Both NASA and ESA confirmed the next huge solar flares between September 2012 and May 2013. We all heard about the big one in 1859 and it looks like we are not far away from major solar flares coming our way. Source: Wikimedia)
Some “2012” updates for your weekend reading…
Lawrence E Joseph, Patrick Geryl and myself would probably be the 2012 catastrophists that have reached the most people. Something we all proclaim is that our Sun is the most likely source of a 2012 disaster:
We each understand that a solar storm could wipe out power grids and potentially melt down nuclear facilities, leading to many millions of lost lives. That late 2012/ early 2013 is probably the peak of this solar cycle fits well with all three theories.
They further argue this based on these facts:-
Our Solar System is at its “solar max”, meaning the Sun is expected to have a change in magnetism and ultimately will trigger a chain reaction throughout the entire Solar System.
Every 11 years we play ‘Russian roulette’ with the sun, and sooner or later we are going to lose that bet. According to scientists, we are in the middle of an 11,500 year cycle of when the ice age returns.
It was approximately 11,500 years ago that the world saw its last ice age, starting off with a polar shift. Earth doesn’t have to flip an entire 180 to truly throw off the balance of the Eco-systems and have some devastating effects on the way we live life.
They are predicting long term blackout due to solar flares.
And as we know that modern life without power (coupled with cascading impact on other areas like water distribution sewage system, banking, etc) even for a couple of days would be a disaster (this in addition to the fact that solar flares produce massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation).
Imagine the effect over a couple of months or even years:-
NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. In the 132-page report, experts detailed what might happen to our modern, high-tech society in the event of a “super solar flare” followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm.
They found that almost nothing is immune from space weather—not even the water in your bathroom.
The problem begins with the electric power grid. “Electric power is modern society’s cornerstone technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend,” the report notes.
Yet it is particularly vulnerable to bad space weather. Ground currents induced during geomagnetic storms can actually melt the copper windings of transformers at the heart of many power distribution systems.
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.
Of course in the US, NASA is not sitting on their laurels, waiting for a solar flares related disaster to happen:-
Reliable forecasting is the key. If utility and satellite operators know a storm is coming, they can take measures to reduce damage—e.g., disconnecting wires, shielding vulnerable electronics, powering down critical hardware. A few hours without power is better than a few weeks.
NASA has deployed a fleet of spacecraft to study the sun and its eruptions. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, ACE, Wind and others are on duty 24/7. NASA physicists use data from these missions to understand the underlying physics of flares and geomagnetic storms; personnel at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center use the findings, in turn, to hone their forecasts.
But that is in the US. What about Malaysia? How prepared we are to deal with solar flares that may (or may not) hit us unannounced this year? I am not sure if you remembered the major power outage that shut down the national grid for 14 hours in 1996?
It was bad because it happened on a weekend but things went to bad to worse in days. First, we had no electricity which was not so bad because we were staying in an apartment which situated on a hill – so it was not that warm during the night. We could not watch the TV for days but we used that time to catch up on our studies.
Then we realized that we had no running water and that took days for the water supply to be back in stages (long after electricity supply was back to normal). I still remember me and my brother hauling buckets of water up 5 floors to our apartment several times when the water truck came visiting us on the second day.
I even had to use the toilet and take a shower at the office for a couple of days before we had a sense of normality. Guess what is going to happen if the same happens and we are out of electricity and water for months?
A major power blackout in Malaysia is not something new – we had it in 1992, 1996, 2003 and 2005.
Some say that it is an act of “sabotage” to allow IPPs to come into the picture with a favourable deal but then again, it may not be so. It could mean that the current power generation is simply incapable to cope with the growing demand for more power or we have not taken all the necessary precaution against solar flares to prevent a major national power blackout.
HOURS after a power failure yesterday, Malaysia’s monopoly power distributor Tenaga Nasional cited a technical fault as the reason for the blackout but said it was baffled as to why it occurred.
The three-hour cut in power plunged many buildings in Kuala Lumpur and three southern states in the peninsula into semi-darkness. It was the country’s most widespread power failure since 1996.
When the main busbar malfunctioned, a standby busbar was to have taken over its functions, ensuring smooth transmission of power. But even the backup busbar failed, leaving officials puzzled. There were concerns about whether employees had slipped on maintenance, and Energy Minister Lim Keng Yaik said: ‘We have to find out if there was human error or maintenance not up to the mark.
Tenaga Nasional was ordered to ensure the failure was never repeated. But yesterday it did happen again, though not for long. Datuk Abdul Hadi said, adding that Tenaga Nasional was unhappy it took so long to restore power.
The above happened in 2005 and 7 years later, I am sure that Tenaga would have taken even more precautionary steps to prevent another national blackout. It has been some time since we had any major power outage but we should not disregard that we may face record-sized solar flares this year.
The way I see it, the future of our civilization as we know it may head to one of these 2 directions – it will either end abruptly as early as 2012 as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures (or as predicted by the Mayans) or nothing major happens in 2012 and the future will come to a point where the civilization will become so advanced that humans start exploring the universe on a larger scale on warp capable space ships (like in the TV series, Star Trek)
I am hoping for the latter but still, we should not ever ignore the possibility of the former and predictions and analysis that comes with it namely a major solar flare disrupting the electricity grids. Happy Tamil New Year.