This was the WORST Geomagnetic storm to ever hit the Earth; the terrifying truth is here | Tech News

This was the WORST Geomagnetic storm to ever hit the Earth; the terrifying truth is here

We associate geomagnetic storms with beautiful auroras. But what was the destruction caused by the worst geomagnetic storm to ever hit the Earth? Find out the terrifying truth about solar storms.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 11:26 IST
Solar storm
The Carrington event highlights the destructive power of the worst geomagnetic storm to hit the Earth. A similar solar storm today can be exponentially disastrous. (Pixabay)

Ever since the notoriously active solar region AR2975 came in line with Earth, we have been facing multiple geomagnetic storms here. Just the previous week, Earth had, on average, been hit by one solar storm per day. These solar storms were due to non-stop solar flares setting off on the Sun. Among the solar flares that erupted, one was an X-class solar flare that caused a temporary shortwave radio blackout on Earth. Yet, the majority of us link geomagnetic storms with something benign like the fantastic patterned lights called auroras. But at a higher intensity, the same geomagnetic storms can become nightmarish. Just take the example of the worst geomagnetic storm to ever hit the Earth: The Carrington Event! There were worst ones than this, but they were too long ago in the annals of history and were not recorded the way that the Carrington event was. It happened when the technology was in the nascent stage and humanity was just coming to grips with the telegraph and electricity.

The worst recorded geomagnetic storm to hit the Earth

The strongest geomagnetic storm ever to hit the Earth was on September 1 and 2, 1859, a time where technology was still in its early stage. The greatest communication system for humans was the telegraph and the entire world relied upon it for receiving information quickly. However, as the geomagnetic storm struck our planet, the entire global telegraph network failed. It was not just limited to that. The telegraph operators reported receiving electric shocks upon touching the instruments, telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire and some equipment started working without being connected to any power source! The event is now known as the Carrington Event and is the worst recorded instance of a solar storm hitting Earth that was recorded by humans.

A solar storm with the same intensity hitting the Earth today will result in 100 times the destruction caused in 1859. This is due to humans relying on wireless communication much more in today's times. Everything is connected via the internet, GPS and navigation systems and mobile phone networks. If these are taken out, most of the services, including the emergency services will fall apart.

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The worst geomagnetic storm to strike the Earth

While the Carrington Event is the worst solar storm to hit the Earth, there have been far worse solar storms to hit the Earth. We just lack any recorded proof of it as these happened centuries before modern civilization took root. There were much worse instances than Carrington. The Miyake event took place in around 774 CE. A geomagnetic storm, almost 12 times stronger than the Carrington event, struck the Earth. While there is no recorded information of that solar storm, we know about it after scientists found its evidence in the ice cores of the Arctic. It can also be assumed that if a geomagnetic storm of that intensity hits the Earth today, it will cause significantly more damage by causing power grid failure and damage most electronic devices on the planet.

This also proves that incidents like the Carrington Event are not isolated and can happen again at any time. Today, we do not have any technology that offers full protection against such geomagnetic storms, and that makes us even more vulnerable. So, while you enjoy the beautiful auroras, do acknowledge the destructive power of these solar storms.

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First Published Date: 05 Apr, 13:46 IST

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