Solar Flare Quiets A Quarter Of The Globe

In the “old” days, people were used to the idea that radio communication isn’t always perfect. AM radio had cracks and pops and if you had to make a call with a radiophone, you expected it to be unreliable and maybe even impossible at a given time. Modern technology,  satellites, and a host of other things have changed and now radio is usually super reliable and high-fidelity. Usually. However, a magnitude 7.9 solar flare this week reminded radio users in Africa and the Middle East that radio isn’t always going to get through. At least for about an hour.

It happened at around 10 AM GMT when that part of the world was facing the sun. Apparently, a coronal mass ejection accompanied the flare, so more electromagnetic disruption may be on its way.

The culprit seems to be an unusually active sunspot which is expected to die down soon. Interestingly, there is also a coronal hole in the sun where the solar wind blows at a higher than usual rate. Want to keep abreast of the solar weather? There’s a website for that.

We’ve pointed out before that we are ill-prepared for technology blackouts due to solar activity, even on the power grid. The last time it happened, we didn’t rely so much on radio.

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13 thoughts on “Solar Flare Quiets A Quarter Of The Globe

  1. Carrington-level events no longer pose the serious threat to the electrical grid that they once did. This is because those massive 100 to 500 ton transformers are protected from the EM surges that would otherwise drive them to self-destruct. That’s not to say there won’t be fair number of smaller transformers that fail under strain in localized areas but a week of work in scattered areas is much better than a nation wide total blackout that could take two years to fully repair.

    The damage to radio communications would evaporate in a couple days which isn’t a huge problem. Disruptive, sure but manageable.

    1. I remember reading somewhere that the Pentagon did a study of how Michael it would cost to have a strategic reserve of transformers for the whole US. It was something in the ballpark of $500mil.

      That’s a steal when you consider that’s the cost of four F-35’s, and the lead-time on large transformers can be months to years.

    2. So tell me what is the run length of conductors in the average industrial scale solar PV farm? What is the terminal (irreversible) breakdown voltage threshold for silicon junctions of that type. What percentage of current installations are adequately protected. What happens to any nation that treats solar PV as anything other than a replaceable and opportunistic power source?

    3. Thanks for the info, but which country we’re talking about? US? 🤷‍♂️
      Last time I heard about that power grid, it was described as being marode and vulnerable to the domino effect.
      But that was years ago. In 2003 there was that black out in Ohio, I vaguely remember? I’m sorry, it’s been a while. I’m from Europe, also.

        1. Agreed, that’s how it’s supposed to be in the civilized world.
          However, some poor and ailing power grids (US or 1980s China) may also just blow up internally step-by-step due to the domino effect? Overvoltage spreads and increases each time, since with each “lost” region, a load is going away as well?

      1. The 2003 blackout occurred due to a domino effect that began with tree branches across a line in Ohio. It ended up covering most of the Eastern US, a region much larger than Ohio! I lived in Michigan, just north of Ohio at the time. It was great! A few unexpected days off of work. With no power everyone got bored or hot in their houses and came outside. Where I was people started campfires, played guitar, etc.. Neighbors who had never spoken to one another met and hung out.

        Strangely Ohio was the first back online, down only hours when for the rest of us it was days. I had friends in Ohio that bragged about that and how they enjoyed their A/C but I thought that was a shame. We had it better where I was.

        1. Don’t get me wrong, I would NEVER chose a life without electricity. But so long as the hospitals, pumping stations, etc.. the important places have backup power an occasional outage is a WONDERFUL break!

          1. Not so sure how you class only hospitals as important, what about fridges and freezers in warehouses, supermarkets and homes. A outage of a day or so and most of the food in the country could be reduced to waste.

  2. Does anyone know what level of threat local electronics devices are under with these sort of flares, or carrington grade ones. With national grids you’ve got long power lines which have currents induced in them, but do flares occur so strong they could induce damaging currenta within traces in computer circuit boards? Or in wires of just a few metres length? Any effect on magnetic storage media?

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