Only Hope against dangerous solar storm like Carrington event is THIS cheap tech
The Earth has been lucky in recent decades to not face an extreme solar storm like the Carrington event. But what happens when it eventually does? This inexpensive technology might be our only savior.
Solar storms are not just a space weather phenomenon but also a cultural phenomenon as auroras. People travel to higher latitudes just to witness these light patterns in the night sky. However, this beautiful imagery has also played a role in people underestimating the truly horrifying effects of this 'missile' shot at Earth by our Sun. And to remember what it is capable of, one does not even need to travel much back in time. Just taking a look at the Carrington event in 1859 will showcase what an intense solar storm can do. Even in the low technological era of that time, a solar storm caused sparking and fires in multiple telegraph stations, halted the communication system and caused widespread power outages due to extensive damage to the power grid. And if a similar event were to happen to the Earth today surrounded by hi-tech infrastructure, the damage we will face would be unimaginable. So, is there any hope for us? Some believe that an inexpensive piece of technology could be our savior.
The contingency plan of Earth in case of another Carrington event level solar storm
The solar storm experienced during the Carrington event was the most intense geomagnetic storm in recorded history. It is not easy to predict what the world might go through now if a similar storm were to strike the Earth. We rely on technology and communication systems more than ever and power grids essentially save lives if you consider that even the emergency systems like hospitals, are dependent on it. A solar storm like that would burn many satellites, destroy GPS, Internet and mobile networks, cause power failures and even start forest fires.
According to a Wired report, if just nine transformers suffered damage from a solar system, the US could face widespread power outages for months. And while this grim picture can be painted further, the question that remains is whether there is a solution to all this. And for most parts, we do not have any. While satellites are reinforced to survive extended solar damage, we do not know how they will react to an unprecedented amount of magnetic flux.
But on the surface, we can protect our power grids to give the Earth a fighting chance. According to Wired, John G. Kappenman, a US scientist, could have shown us the right technology to ward off any geomagnetic storms. Kappenman suggested empowering the power grids with capacitors. These are inexpensive devices that block the flow of electricity in case of excessive power or any malfunction.
“To cover the entirety of the US, you're probably in the ballpark of a few billion dollars,” Kappenman told Wired. “If you spread that cost out, it would equal a postage stamp per year per customer.” A similar system would cost about the same in India. And while it is a cost and resource intensive project, for now power grid hardening is the only solution we might have.