Last Monday the first of three large Coronal Mass Ejections broke loose from the sun and are heading in our direction. About 8 minutes after the first CME broke loose; the earth was bombarded with a wave of radiation that had some effect on radio communication and GPS systems. But the huge clouds of charged particles takes a lot longer to reach earth and in most cases, they miss earth altogether.
From what I have heard, the probability of these three affecting earth is quite high. Normally our magnetic shield protects us from a lot of radiation and most charged particles, but it can be overpowered by a huge cloud (or mass) of charged particles. Then all sorts of bad things can happen, especially to the power grids and communications. Now my friends off grid have the least to worry about.
If a CME is large enough and hits us full force, it can strip away our magnetic field and induce high and fluctuating currents in transmission lines or any wire long enough to be affected. That could shut down grids and overload others causing blackouts. It could also ruin sensitive electronic equipment and of course pretty much put an end to radio communications. And in a worse case scenario, it could ruin are protective magnetic shield and allow cosmic radiation and all the radiation from the sun through to us. Of course, they could miss us entirely. We are just a little blue dot floating in an enormous space.
And too, the effects are felt more severely the closer to the poles you get. So Alaska and our neighbor to the north, Canada, would get hit the hardest. Of course everything has a good side and this holds true for CMEs. They can produce some of the most spectacular aurora borealis man has ever seen.
OK, to read all about it here is a link to a FOX news report on the subject:
I remember a few in the past. One in particular caused the grid to collapse in Canada and the north eastern US. There were black outs and some power generation plants where damaged along with some of the grids components.
Of course, like most things that could be really, really bad, they usually never live up to their full expectations and that is a good thing. It takes a few things beyond human control to happen now and then to humble us. The human race sometimes thinks it can control everything, if not now, eventually. Now and then it is good to be presented with something that is way beyond human control. I’m feeling a little more humble, how about you?