2012`s solar storm highlights need for policymakers to prep up for future

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 15:49

Washington: A researcher has said that a massive ejection of material from the Sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth in 2012 is an event scientists hope will open policymakers` eyes regarding impacts and mitigation of severe space weather.

University of Colorado Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, said that the coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the Sun blasted Earth`s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light.

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, he said.

Baker said that his space weather colleagues believe that until they have an event that slams Earth and causes complete mayhem, policymakers are not going to pay attention, asserting that the message they are trying to convey is that we made direct measurements of the 2012 event and saw the full consequences without going through a direct hit on our planet.

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.

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

The event not only had the most powerful CME ever recorded, but it would have triggered one of the strongest geomagnetic storms and the highest density of particle fluctuation ever seen in a typical solar cycle, which last roughly 11 years.

Baker said that he and others have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario.


First Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 15:48

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