A solar superstorm could shut down the internet for months, scientists claim

A scientist has claimed that the internet could be down for weeks or perhaps even months after the arrival of a massive solar storm.

The northern lights are actually a phenomenon caused by activity on the surface of our sun at a distance of about 150 million kilometers. Particles are trapped in our planet’s magnetic field and focused on the magnetic north and south poles. But despite its beauty, that same energy could one day pose a major problem for our small planet.

This is August 19, 2004, NASA Solar and Helicopter
Photo credit should read HO/AFP via Getty Images

Speak with FOX Weather Earlier this month, Professor Peter Becker of George Mason University, Virginia, claimed that the planet could soon face an “internet apocalypse.”

But before you panic and download as many Netflix shows as possible, here are the facts.

“The Internet came of age at a time when the sun was still relatively calm, and now a more active time is beginning,” explained Professor Becker. “It is the first time in human history that increased solar activity has intersected with our dependence on the Internet and our global economic dependence on the Internet.”

Solar flares are not uncommon. On Earth we mostly see the “muzzle flash,” but coronal mass ejection (CME) can be fired in any direction. This only gives the planet an 18 to 24 hour warning window before the solar particles affect our magnetic field.

Therefore, power grids, satellites, fiber optic cables, navigation, GPS systems, radio transmitters and communications devices are all vulnerable to solar superstorms.


Previous solar superstorms

In 1859, the planet experienced a phenomenon similar to that described by Professor Becker in the so-called Carrington event. Likewise, it is believed that an even larger storm hit the planet around 14,000 years ago.

“It actually knocked out the telegraph system, sparks were literally flying off the telegraph lines,” Becker said of the Carrington event. “Some operators were electrocuted because the lines were carrying high voltage, which they were never supposed to do, but the magnetic field fluctuations became so strong that they almost became a generator system, driving these currents through telegraph wires.”

He continued: “So when you consider the Internet, with its very sensitive electronics, you’re talking about something that could really take down the system for a period of several weeks to months, judging by the time it takes to repair the “The whole thing would be needed.” the infrastructure – all these electronic switches, all these electronics cabinets in all these office buildings.

“It could all be fried. So we’re talking pretty significant. And it’s not just about communication. It’s also, of course, an economic disruption.”

What to do before a solar superstorm?

To combat the potential problem, the University of George Mason partnered with the Naval Research Laboratory to develop an early warning system.

“When we have an alert, every minute counts because you can put satellites into safe mode. You can unplug transformers so they don’t burn out,” Becker said.

“So there are things you can do to mitigate the problem. And then, in the longer term, you’re talking about hardening the internet.”

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The post “Solar Superstorm Could Shut Down the Internet for Months,” Scientists Claim first on HITC.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Emma Bowman by emailing EmmaBowman@ustimetoday.com.

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