Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Solar Flares (CME - Coronal Mass Ejections) - update

Simulation of the interaction between Earth's ...Image via Wikipedia

The world's magnetic field (magnetosphere) protects the earth from solar mass ejections. It is expected that it will reach the current cycle peak in two years, at around the year 2012. Normally even large flares can't do much damage to terrestrial things because the Earth's magnetic field acts as a shield against the power of these eruptions. However, it has recently been noted that the field is rapidly weakening and that a 'pole reversal' might occur soon. During this period the Earth would be vulnerable to hazardous solar developments: Ref. NOVA Science Programming On Air and Online > Magnetic Storms > from PBS concern is expressed that the world's magnetic field is weakening.

See also,

  1. NASA - Solar Cycle Prediction Provides detailed scientific background, showing the current major cycle peaking at around the year 2012 ... NASA - Cycle 23-24 Sunspot Number Predictor (gif)

  2. NASA > Solar Physics > Marshall Solar Physics "Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) disrupt the flow of the solar wind and produce disturbances that strike the Earth with sometimes catastrophic results."

  3. From National Geographic feature article - "Our life-giving sun throws tempests that can scramble modern technology. New telescopes and satellites let scientists probe the secrets of the temperamental star." ... "Although nearly everything that happens in and on the sun affects our planet, two kinds of explosive solar events impact Earthlings most severely. One is a solar flare, in which a small area above the solar surface suddenly roars to tens of millions of degrees, throwing off a surge of radiation that can cause communications blackouts, disable satellites, or theoretically, kill a spacewalking astronaut. The other event is a coronal mass ejection (CME), in which billions of tons of charged particles escape from the sun's halo, the corona, at millions of miles an hour. When these behemoth clouds slam into Earth's protective magnetosphere, they squash the magnetic field lines and dump trillions of watts of power into Earth's upper atmosphere. This can overload power lines, causing massive blackouts, and destroy delicate instruments on anything in Earth orbit."

  4. Solar Cycle - [ Updates every 2 minutes ]

  5. - Current Conditions ... Subscription: SpaceWeather Telephone / eMail Alerts

  6. National Computer Security Center (Ref: - A Guide to Understanding Data Remanence in Automated Information Systems)

  7. On Wednesday, 1 November, 2003 one the most powerful CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) was expected to hit it's peak effect on the Earth, full on. (Ref: National Geographic News, October 29, 2003 - "Perfect Sun Storm Threatens Power, Phones." ... "One of the largest solar eruptions in history is sending a giant electromagnetic pulse our way at speeds of millions of miles per hour. Due to hit Earth any time from now, scientists say it could trigger worldwide outages in power grids and communication networks—and spectacular auroral lights in the night skies."

  8. Solar Storms > Blackouts provides some (relatively 'weak' references ... "Electrical power blackouts and 'sags' cost the US about $80 billion every year in lost services, industrial capacity and Gross Domestic Product. Blackouts caused by space weather events are potentially more devastating than a major hurricane landfall. The space weather 'Storm of the Century' could cause hardships more severe than anything we have thus far experienced."

  9. Solar Storms > Technical ... "Currently, there are 936 operating satellites in space with a replacement cost of $200 billion. The telecommunications industry relies on them to generate $250 billion in profits each year. Virtually every class of operating satellite has demonstrated a vulnerability to space weather storms. Most are minor, but many involve consequences leading to satellite damage or failure. The orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) is very sensitive to the level of solar storms which cause excess atmospheric drag. ... During sunspot maximum conditions, the ISS loses 146 kilometers of altitude each year. It would burn up in the atmosphere if it were not 're-boosted' every few months."

  10. X Class Flare Region on the Sun - 21 April, 2002 (Photograph) ... (Video - Quick Time)

Other References:
Solar Storms > Cycle 24 Sunspot Maximum in 2011 or 2012 ... (Ref: Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Presented by the NOAA Space Environment Center (SEC)) - The panel agrees solar maximum will occur near October, 2011 for the large cycle (Ri=140) case and August, 2012 for the small cycle (Ri=90) prediction.
(Wiki: Measuring Magnetism - Tesla unit) ... "The
tesla (symbol T) is the SI derived unit of magnetic field (specifically magnetic flux density). The tesla is equal to one weber per square metre and was defined in 1960[1] in honor of inventor, scientist and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla." ...

"1 tesla is equivalent to:

  • 10,000 (or 104) gauss (G), used in CGS system. Thus, 10 G = 1 mT (1 millitesla)

  • 1,000,000,000 (or 109) gammas (γ), used in geophysics. Thus, 1 γ = 1 nT (nanotesla)"

Of course there are other points of view - (this from PCWorld). Albeit, those often have reason for a bias. For instance they might:

  • not be aware of the some of the well founded scientific facts that support an argument to protect against such massive data destructive risk. (Ref: Wiki - Radiation hardening)

  • be members of the computer/technology community more interested in profits than digital security.

  • not be willing to go to the high expense of 'hardening' systems.

  • be biased towards supporting the view that the whole world best do everything digitally, and the sooner the better; with no 'hard copy' backup.

As mentioned previously, there is a danger here. If everything goes digital and we loose all human knowledge to an EMP the world would immediately go back to the second "Dark Ages." Let's call it Dark Times 2.0+©.

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