This Is a Monster: Sunspot Now Larger Than Jupiter… Continues to Unleash Solar Flares

solar-storm2

As most Americans go about their daily lives without care or concern for what’s happening around them, 92 million miles away a catastrophic threat may well be in the making.

In January, the NOAA identified a sizable sun spot dubbed AR 1944. Within hours of warnings being issued about the potential for this particular region of the sun to cause earth-directed coronal mass ejections it sent an X-class solar flare our way. While powerful, that particular flare and the subsequent M-class flares were not strong enough to cause any significant disruptions on earth.

But as the spot rotated to the other side of the sun things got interesting… and ever more dangerous for the people of earth.

AR1944 has since been renamed to AR1967, and the region is now more active than it was in January. According to sky photographer John Chumack, AR1967 has grown considerably. It is now wider than Jupiter. That’s big. So big, in fact, that you can fit over 100 earth-sized planets into it.

ar1967
(Credit: John Chumack – Sunspot AR 1967 - Galactic Images)

Space.com calls it a monster:

“The massive sunspot AR 1967 is now wider than the planet Jupiter and is very active,” Chumack told Space.com in an email on Feb. 4. “Yesterday no less than seven M-class solar flares have erupted from this region.”

The sunspot group AR 1967 has continued to unleash several solar flares as it makes its two-week trek across the face of the sun, as seen from Earth.

And while AR1967 is not earth-facing as of right now, it will be in a couple weeks. Last week the sunspot unleashed seven M-class flares in a single day. And though earth was spared from getting hit by a higher-level X-class flare, the potential for such an event certainly exists and is estimated to be around 50% because of the region’s high level of activity.

It doesn’t happen often that the sun unleashes a solar flare powerful enough to cause serious damage, yet in the last decade we narrowly escaped the worst-case scenario twice.

The first instance occurred in 2003, when researchers spotted the most powerful solar flare ever recorded. That one came in at a whopping X-45 class. We got lucky that time, as the flare was not earth directed. But had it been, it could have led to widespread grid-down scenarios all over the planet as power grid infrastructures would have seen surges strong enough to destroy electrical transformers and substations.

The second incident occurred in 2012 and most people didn’t event hear about it. It wasn’t disseminated by the mainstream press until a full year later. That flare was so intense that it prompted one expert to claim the world escaped an EMP catastrophe:

‘There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,’ added Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission.

‘Basically this is a Russian roulette thing,’ he said. ‘We narrowly escape from a Carrington-class disaster.’

A Carrington-class catastrophe refers to an 1859 solar event that lead to surges across the world, which resulted in a (literal) meltdown of telegraph communications equipment.

CU-Boulder professor Daniel Baker noted that the 2012 flare was unprecedented:

The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age”

And to put into perspective what would have resulted had this flare not bounced off our atmosphere, Baker followed up with an ominous assessment:

Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews.

We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario…

We came close.

So close that Congressional members are coming around to the idea that we could well experience the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it should a high level X-class flare be directed at earth.

It’s no longer just an outlier, according to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) who is a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

It’s a certainty:

The Likelihood of a severe geo-magnetic event capable of crippling our electric grid is 100%.

The reality is that one of these days, perhaps even the next time AR 1967 swings around, earth could get hit by a flare similar to what missed us in 2003 and 2012.

The fall out from such an event would be nothing short of a worldwide catastrophe, as electrical power lines, utility plants, GPS systems, telecommunications equipment (including your cell phone), cars, and anything else not hardened against an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) is rendered instantly inoperable.

What would follow is complete pandemonium as the entire global infrastructure, especially in developed nations, completely collapses.

A security report presented to Congress predicts that such a scenario would be long-term, widespread, and result in the deaths of 90% of the population of the United States.

As retired Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has warned, our ailing grid is simply not ready for it. And no one is willing to pony up the tens of billions of dollars necessary to upgrade our domestic infrastructure.

In the grand scheme of things, the sun unleashes these powerful flares on a regular basis. It will do so again. And chances are that our planet will not be ready for it.

But this time it won’t just be telegraphs or a hydro power station in Ontario that goes down. It’s going to be a massive hit and it’s going to affect anyone on this planet who is dependent on the daily functioning of electrically powered systems.

As highlighted by Tess Pennington, a grid-down scenario is no laughing matter and something to be taken very seriously:

Consider, for a moment, how drastically your life would change without the continuous flow of energy the grid delivers. While manageable during a short-term disaster, losing access to the following critical elements of our just-in-time society would wreak havoc on the system.

  • Challenges or shut downs of business commerce
  • Breakdown of our basic infrastructure: communications, mass transportation, supply chains
  • Inability to access money via atm machines
  • Payroll service interruptions
  • Interruptions in public facilities – schools, workplaces may close, and public gatherings.
  • Inability to have access to clean drinking water

How prepared are you for a scenario in which the grid is non-functioning for an extended period of time?

It wouldn’t take long for society to fall apart if it were to happen. Recent evidence suggests that within three days we’d be in a world of trouble.

With all of the variables at play we can probably all agree that the possibility on any given day is extremely low. But over a timeline of fifty or a hundred years, it becomes a lot more likely.

The last time a major solar event struck earth was 1859.

Are we due for another one?


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Scientists Warn of Worst Case Scenario: “Solar Flares… Will Short Circuit Satellites, Power Grids, Ground Communication Equipment”

grid-down-city

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder recently completed analyzing data from a Coronal Mass Ejection that took place in the summer of 2012. The CME, which was reportedly the most powerful electrical discharge ever recorded from the sun, narrowly missed earth. It was not “earth directed,” meaning the electro-magnetic mass was ejected by the sun when it was facing away from our planet. However, had it occurred just a week prior, the highly charged particles would have struck earth and, according to CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, would have led to nothing short of a technological disaster across the globe.

The CME itself was massive… and its speed was unprecedented, clocking in at 7 million miles per hour.

While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours.

“The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker.

While early warning systems are capable of detecting CME’s and solar flares ahead of time, this particular event happened so quickly that it is unclear if monitoring groups at NASA’s Solar Shield Project would have been able to send alerts to emergency services teams in time.

Had it struck earth, says Baker, it would have caused damage so significant that modern electrical systems would have been fried.

Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews.

We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario

We argue that this extreme event should be immediately employed by the space weather community to model severe space weather effects on technological systems such as the electrical power grid.

I liken it to war games — since we have the information about the event, let’s play it through our various models and see what happens.

If we do this, we would be a significant step closer to providing policymakers with real-world, concrete kinds of information that can be used to explore what would happen to various technologies on Earth and in orbit rather than waiting to be clobbered by a direct hit.

Source: Colorado.edu via Activist Post

Most policy makers have not taken the threat of an earth-directed solar flare seriously, even though a senior member of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee recently warned that there is a 100% Chance of a Severe Geo-Magnetic Event Capable of Crippling Our Electric Grid.

If such an event were to happen Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who has advised people to develop individual preparedness plans based on the threat of massive solar flares or electro-magnetic pulse detonations, says that it would take upwards of 18 months to bring the grid back online because of a decaying national infrastructure.

We could have events in the future where the power grid will go down and it’s not, in any reasonable time, coming back up. For instance, if when the power grid went down some of our large transformers were destroyed, damaged beyond use, we don’t make any of those in this country. They’re made overseas and you order one and 18 months to two years later they will deliver it. Our power grid is very vulnerable. It’s very much on edge. Our military knows that.

There are a number of events that could create a situation in the cities where civil unrest would be a very high probability. And, I think that those who can, and those who understand, need to take advantage of the opportunity when these winds of strife are not blowing to move their families out of the city.

If a solar kill shot were to occur and short out the electrical power grid, it has been estimated that some nine out of ten Americans would be dead within one year as transportation systems broke down, food delivery ceased, commerce systems no longer functioned, communications equipment became inoperable and utilities, such as water treatment plants, were incapable of delivery services.

The ramifications would be serious and almost immediate according to a 132-page NASA funded report on Understanding the Economic and Societal Impacts of Severe Space Weather:

To estimate the scale of such a failure, report co-author John Kappenmann of the Metatech Corporation looked at the great geomagnetic storm of May 1921, which produced ground currents as much as ten times stronger than the 1989 Quebec storm, and modeled its effect on the modern power grid.

He found more than 350 transformers at risk of permanent damage and 130 million people without power.

The loss of electricity would ripple across the social infrastructure with “water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, fuel re-supply and so on.”

If you’ve ever wondered what a massive electrical surge from an electro-magnetic pulse weaponsolar flare or cyber attack might look like, then take a look at this footage shot in Montreal.

Imagine a powerful X-class solar flare striking earth and sending a surge like the one above across the entire U.S. power grid.

Are you prepared for such an event?

Related reading:

When the Grid Goes Down, You Better Be Ready (Ready Nutrition)

Getting Started: Prepping for a Two Week Power Out (The Organic Prepper)


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Solar Activity Surges: Multiple X-Class Flares Reported: NOAA Says More To Come: “Powerful”

Leading up to 2013 many solar researches forecast that activity on the sun would be heating up as it transitioned into its solar maximum cycle, something that occurs about every 11 years.

New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors solar activity in conjunction with other agencies and space projects, indicates that this wave of powerful solar storms may be starting.

Solar storms, which are responsible for emitting Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s), come in waves. In the last 48 hours, the NOAA has identified multiple, powerful X-class solar flares that have been emitted on the eastern tip of the sun. While the sun regularly hurls enormous clouds of super-heated plasma into space, the associated solar flares are usually not powerful enough to cause any disruptions to earth.

X-class flares, however, are extremely powerful and when the charged particles released by the sun slam into the earth they can wreak havoc. They’ve been responsible for everything from interruptions to critical satellite services like global positioning systems to widespread power outages. In 1989 an X-class solar flare  was responsible for taking Quebec’s hydro power stations offline, leaving millions of people without electricity.

According to Space Weather reports, activity on the sun has surged over the past two days, and there’s a 40% chance that it’s going to continue through this week, just as the sun moves into a position where it can send a flare directed at earth.

While the three solar flares recorded in recent days are on the lower end of the classification scale, the sunspot area which produced them is reportedly layered with a large and complicated magnetic field. This leaves the door open for the possibility that a future flare emitted from this region could be significantly more powerful than its predecessors.

The primary concern with X-class flares is that one of them could potentially become a solar Killshot, or an earth directed flare so powerful that it could literally take down large portions of the global power grid in a cascading electrical outage resulting from highly charged particles slamming into electrical lines and transformers.

Solar Activity Surges

A sunspot on the sun’s eastern limb is crackling with powerful X-class solar flares.

AR1748 announced itself during the early hours of May 13th with an X1.7-class eruption (0217 UT), quickly followed by an X2.8-class flare (1609 UT) and an X3.2-class flare (0117 UT on May 14). These are the strongest flares of the year so far, and they signal a significant increase in solar activity.

NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more X-flares during the next 24 hours.

All of these flares have produced strong flashes of extreme ultraviolet radiation.

Here is the view of the latest eruption, which registered X3.2 on the Richter Scale of Solar Flares, from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

xclass-flare-0514

The explosions have also hurled coronal mass ejections (CMEs) into space. Coronagraphs on board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory are tracking the clouds

When the action began on May 13th, the instigating sunspot was hidden behind the sun’s eastern limb, but now solar rotation is bringing the active region into view.

Sunspot AR1478 is not particularly large, but it is complex, with many dark core scattered through its zone of influence. This is a sign of a complicated overlying magnetic field. When tangled lines of magnetic force criss, cross, and reconnect–voila!

Via: Space Weather

While the probability of a Killshot flare striking earth is quite low, they do happen.

In addition to the many recorded events over the last century and a half that were responsible for electrical outages, fires, and other disruptions, a modern day Killshot class flare occurred in 2003, leaving many scientists stunned.

Physicists in New Zealand have shown that last November’s record-breaking solar explosion was much larger than previously estimated, thanks to innovative research using the upper atmosphere as a gigantic x-ray detector.

Researchers from the University of Otago used radio wave-based measurements of the x-rays’ effects on the Earth’s upper atmosphere to revise the flare’s size from a merely huge X28 to a “whopping” X45, say researchers Neil Thomson, Craig Rodger, and Richard Dowden. X-class flares are major events that can trigger radio blackouts around the world and long-lasting radiation storms in the upper atmosphere that can damage or destroy satellites. The biggest previous solar flares on record were rated X20, on 2 April 2001 and 16 August 1989.

This makes it more than twice as large as any previously recorded flare, and if the accompanying particle and magnetic storm had been aimed at the Earth, the damage to some satellites and electrical networks could have been considerable,” says Thomson. Their calculations show that the flare’s x-ray radiation bombarding the atmosphere was equivalent to that of 5,000 Suns, though none of it reached the Earth’s surface, the researchers say.

It’s doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the effects on Earth are, as Neil Thomson notes, “considerable.”

So much so that a flare powerful enough to cause a grid-down infrastructure collapse would have an immediate impact on day-to-day life, including the halting of just-in-time delivery systems for essential goods like food and fuel.

Estimates suggest that an infrastructure collapse of this magnitude, similar to an EMP attack, would leave something on the order of 9 out of 10 Americans dead within one year.

While we may not be able to predict when the next Killshot will hit earth, we can be prepared for it.

Perhaps we’ll never see such an event in our lifetimes – probability suggests we won’t.

But what if we do?


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You