This is when a solar storm will cause Internet apocalypse? | Tech News

This is when a solar storm will cause Internet apocalypse?

  • A disaster in the form of a solar storm, shot from the Sun, is looming over Earth. 
  • Know when it is likely to happen and why it is likely to cause an Internet apocalypse and leave you in jeopardy. 
  • Internet apocalypse will hit these countries the most

| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 21:17 IST
solar storm Internet Apocalypse
The Sun is in its active phase again and a solar storm is likely to result. What it will do is cause an Internet apocalypse down here on Earth. (NASA)

Humanity is in danger when the Sun acts up. The threat is from what has been termed as solar storms, which can loosely be interpreted as being the result of the Sun shooting out blazingly hot plasma towards Earth. For a century or so, a really big solar storm, some call it a 'solar superstorm' has not happened. Actually, it may have happened, but fortunately, the solar storm that the Sun ejected may not have been directed towards the Earth. However, now, the threat perception has increased with recent research indicating that a really big solar storm is likely to hit Earth and it even provided a time frame.

When will the next big solar storm hit Earth?

First of all, the Sun has gone into its 11-year active cycle during which it has a greater chance to eject solar storms and that too big ones. Next is the fact that a big solar storm is overdue. Dr Sangeetha Jyothi, a professor at University of California Irvine, in her research paper, has argued that there is a big chance of Earth being hit by a solar superstorm. 

When? She has argued that this is likely to happen over the next 20 years or so. Jyothi has calculated the chances too. She says that there is a 1.6% to 12% per decade chance that a solar superstorm will hit the Earth. In any case, the past history shows that a big solar storm hits Earth every century or so and that again indicates that a big one may be coming soon.

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How catastrophic and for whom, will be the next big solar storm?

While the Earth's atmosphere protects humanity and the rest of the flora and fauna from the ravages of the electromagnetic storms that solar storms create, it does have an impact elsewhere. The nicest impact is that these solar storms end up creating some sublime auroras up in the skies. The bigger the solar storm, the more and brighter are the auroras and they can be seen across a broader swathe of the Earth. Small ones restrict the visibility of auroras to the poles only. However, some severe ones have been noticed as far as Hawaii and Cuba.

The serious stuff will happen elsewhere. The worst impact will be on the electronic infrastructure. A solar storm can knock out satellites and deprive us of GPS and other stuff that satellites do. Back here down on Earth, a big solar storm will knock out the Internet. Jyothi refers to it as an Internet apocalypse.

Where exactly will solar storm impact the Internet?

The most vulnerable part of the Internet system consists of sea cables. Now, the cables themselves will not be affected, but they are connected to each other through repeaters. It is these repeaters that will be knocked out and this will send the Internet into a tailspin. Jyothi says the down time of the Internet may last as long as 2 months for many with the US and Europe most affected and Asia the least - the impact of the solar storm is always the greatest at the northernmost and southernmost parts of the Earth.

The impact of severe solar storm is also likely to cripple the electricity infrastructure due to the massive surge in power grids as it did in Canada decades ago. It knocked out power for almost half a day. Then there was the New York Railroad superstorm, which happened exactly a century ago, which impacted both the electricity and telegraph infrastructure.

When put together, the cumulative effect of a knocked out Internet and powergrid failure will cost both lives and money as humanity has become increasingly dependent on these for both saving lives and earning a living.

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First Published Date: 21 Oct, 11:16 IST