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Thread: Solar Storm coming

  1. #1
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Solar Storm coming

    fyi: The Wall Street Journal posted an article today, 7 March 2012 about the major solar storm due to arrive this Thursday early morning:

    "Associated Press
    WASHINGTON—The largest solar storm in five years is racing toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights."
    ...
    "But there is potential for widespread problems. Solar storms have three ways they can disrupt technology on Earth: with magnetic, radio and radiation emissions. This is an unusual situation when all three types of solar-storm disruptions are likely to be strong, Mr. Kunches said."
    ...
    "The magnetic part of the storm has the potential to trip electrical power grids. Mr. Kunches said utility companies around the world have been alerted. The timing and speed of the storm determines whether it knocks off power grids, he said."

    among other effects: GPS inaccuracies and outages, expected high radiation is causing polar flights are being re-routed, etc.

    soooo, If any of us CPF'ers are flying at high altitude on polar routes at that time, that would be a perfect time to test their multi-stage high-output LED by holding it near a viewing port for a while....

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    forgot to add: Weather.com and other websites have more specific info. This eruption was classified as a X5.4-class solar flare which generated a coronal mass ejection. The Coronal Mass Ejection was classified "G3" (strong).

    IOW, maybe ensure that your batteries are charged by Wed night?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    No doubt the powerful sunspot activity scrambled the vB software, causing this thread to be posted in the wrong place. I'll move it to the radiation-proof Café.
    Resistance is futile...

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* LEDninja's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    A storm front is passing through Ontario right now. Would not be able to see the Northern Lights even if they moved this far south.

    This is the biggest solar flare in the past 5 years. Not the biggest one ever like in 1989, 1921, 2003. In the past 5 years I have seen the same BOILER PLATE warning has been issued for lesser storms.
    Every time a regular hurricane hits Florida the state's power grid is down for 2 weeks. The ice storm that hit Quebec knocked out power for longer than the solar storm. This is not the end of the world folks.

    In 1989 the telegraph system went down because of long unprotected wires. Nowadays phone and internet trunk lines use fiber optic cable, not copper wires. If your internet is coaxial cable the outer cable protects the inner one (you only need one of the 2 to work).
    In downtown areas almost all lines are now underground. Only people in the suburbs with phone and power lines on poles will be affected.
    Power grid transformers may be affected. But they are not directly affected by the storm. The solar storm builds up a charge on the long power lines and the surge of power may affect the transformers. Maybe. The transformers are protected against similar surges caused by lightening strikes on the power lines by breakers and lightening arrestors/grounding systems. It is a lot easier to replace a breaker than a whole power grid transformer. So I do not expect to see extended power outages if interruptions occur except in isolated cases.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    I had to laugh over DM51's graceful way of moving this thread! Thanks! when I posted it I was thinking that the thread would be a better fit for the Cafe, but since the EMP discussion was not moved, well, no matter. Thanks!!

    Back to the topic: Northern Europe is reporting colorful Polar lights (Northern Lights). No power disruptions yet.

    One reason for paying attention to solar storms is that I have been directly affected or observed the results of solar storms. ie: as a kid, I remember truly spectacular colorful deep red/orange Aurora that filled the sky in southern MN in the '40s. In the military, I remember more than a couple solar events that shut down nearly all radio communications
    ....ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss sssss...
    ie: I could see a 5KW AM radio station that was broadcasting and not hear it from only a couple miles away.

    As for power lines, the NSP power dispatcher that used to live near me told me that there have been days when he could not purchase the cheap Manitoba Hydro power and was forced to purchase the more expensive TVA power because the induced voltage on the North/South power lines was too high to move significant power thru those lines.

    and btw, in 1989 Quebec experienced a major power failure due to a solar storm. Admittedly actual system failures due to solar storms are rare.

    As for this solar flare, reports are that it will mostly miss Earth to the "left", whatever "left" means.

    a moldyoldy

  6. #6
    Flashaholic* AnAppleSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    Quote Originally Posted by moldyoldy View Post
    As for this solar flare, reports are that it will mostly miss Earth to the "left", whatever "left" means.
    The important part of a solar flare is the 'Coronal Mass Ejection,' because that's the part that punches hard. Imagine a soap bubble popping in slow motion - the bits shoot out in odd directions. In space they'll keep flying because they are going very quickly. Many of the particles in the CME are charged, and they influence the Earth's magnetic field if they come close. (Any moving charge creates its own magnetic field).

    Moving the Earth's magnetic field then induces current in conductors. Long, exposed ones are more vulnerable, and signal-boosting tends to pick up more waving magnetic field than signal magnetic field. The short version is: We haven't been hit hard since GPS, internet, and 3G became a part of daily life. If some of the bad past events (Toronto power outage, 1859 flare that burned telegraph lines down, then we are in for some hurt.

    Satellite systems in particular can be hurt by these particles, both from magnetic effects and direct radiation effects. The charged particles move very quickly, and act like bullets when they hit satellites. This can damage the on-board computers, degrading or destroying the satellite's ability to do things.

    "Missing to the left" probably means either our left facing the Sun (Behind us on our orbit?) or the Sun's left 'facing' us (Ahead of us on our orbit). Either way, it's not a good description, is it?
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Solar Storm coming

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDninja View Post
    A storm front is passing through Ontario right now. Would not be able to see the Northern Lights even if they moved this far south.

    This is the biggest solar flare in the past 5 years. Not the biggest one ever like in 1989, 1921, 2003. In the past 5 years I have seen the same BOILER PLATE warning has been issued for lesser storms.
    Every time a regular hurricane hits Florida the state's power grid is down for 2 weeks. The ice storm that hit Quebec knocked out power for longer than the solar storm. This is not the end of the world folks.

    In 1989 the telegraph system went down because of long unprotected wires. Nowadays phone and internet trunk lines use fiber optic cable, not copper wires. If your internet is coaxial cable the outer cable protects the inner one (you only need one of the 2 to work).
    In downtown areas almost all lines are now underground. Only people in the suburbs with phone and power lines on poles will be affected.
    Power grid transformers may be affected. But they are not directly affected by the storm. The solar storm builds up a charge on the long power lines and the surge of power may affect the transformers. Maybe. The transformers are protected against similar surges caused by lightening strikes on the power lines by breakers and lightening arrestors/grounding systems. It is a lot easier to replace a breaker than a whole power grid transformer. So I do not expect to see extended power outages if interruptions occur except in isolated cases.
    Not the end of the world but if you're in Ontario you may be able to remember when your provincial neighbour, Quebec, was blacked out for days and days back in the late '80s after the transmission lines coming down from James Bay were hit with megasurges caused by solar flares. Even nowadays, power companies have to "brown down" their power transmissions to allow for such surges during solar events. Or so-says the CBC and what Canadian from Ontario would argue with them?
    It is better to light up one LED than to curse the darkness.

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